USDA to resurvey 1,400 small grains farmers in 8 states; production estimates could be changed

Markets Associated Press

The federal government plans to resurvey about 1,400 small grains farmers in eight states in the Upper Midwest and West who still had crops in the field when they were asked a month ago about their yearly production.

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The new information could result in a revision of the official government estimates of wheat, barley and oat production. It isn't likely to affect prices that consumers pay in the grocery store, but one market expert said it could affect the price that Upper Midwest spring wheat farmers get for their grain.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service surveys farmers in early September, when the small grains harvest should be wrapping up, and releases the data in its annual late-September small grains summary.

The report typically is the government's final word on annual production of those crops. However, wet weather this fall has delayed the harvest in many areas, leaving many farmers to only guess at what their production would be.

"We have the ability to go back and resurvey those operators if we see a large amount of acreage was not harvested at the time of the interviews," said Anthony Prillaman, head of the statistics service's field crops section.

The USDA this month plans to resurvey affected farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. If the effort results in changes to production estimates, the agency will publish updated data on Nov. 10.

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The USDA has done resurveys before, though never in so many states, according to Prillaman. The agency's data show that the surveys typically result in only minor adjustments to official crop estimates and often don't result in any changes.

The number of small grains farmers being resurveyed this year amounts to only about 2 percent of the 66,300 that were originally interviewed, Prillaman said.

Spring wheat is grown mainly in the Upper Midwest, and big revisions to production estimates could affect market prices in the region, said Darin Newsom, a senior analyst at the Omaha, Nebraska-based market information company DTN. Market prices typically move up or down based on drops or rises in production.

That also can happen with food prices, but shoppers shouldn't notice any changes at the cash register due to any revisions that result from the resurvey, Newsom said. There are several other types of wheat than spring wheat, and there are large wheat supplies around the world.

"A change in spring wheat production, either large or small, will not change overall supplies of wheat, so shouldn't have a large ripple effect all the way to the consumer level," Newsom said.

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