Impact of the Loss of USDA NASS County Level Reports

County level reports are often used in farm level decisions, for example, many flexible lease agreements utilize the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) county average yields. If NASS reported county yields are used in flexible leases or other farm decisions, start discussions early on alternative options, such as farm level yields reported to crop insurance or county level yields reported by USDA Risk Management Agency. Using yield estimates as reported by USDA avoids the question of how to measure the actual production and removed the influence that above or below average management ability has on yields. USDA NASS yields were not announced until March following the crop year, but were well ahead of yields released by USDA RMA in June following the crop year. With the impact these changes will have, a secondary yield should be discussed in the event the original chosen source isn’t reported.

Full news release: NASS discontinues select 2024 data collection programs and reports

Issued April 9, 2024, by the Agricultural Statistics Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is canceling the July Cattle report and discontinuing the Cotton Objective Yield Survey, as well as all County Estimates for Crops and Livestock beginning with the 2024 production year. The decision to discontinue these surveys and reports was not made lightly, but was necessary, given appropriated budget levels.
NASS has and will continue to review its estimating programs using criteria focused on the needs of its mission and customers to prioritize budget decisions. Information about all NASS surveys and reports is available online at

USDA NASS Newsroom,
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Internal and external uses compete for hay and grazing land

Cow-calf producers need forages. Corn stalks can supplement forage supplies. Still, pasture and hay are the key forage resources. Growing forages takes land.

On-farm land use decisions involve trade-offs. If you choose to grow hay to earn income from cattle, you give up the opportunity to earn income from growing something else, corn for example, on that land. Economists call earnings you forego to use your resources where you choose, rather than employing them somewhere else, opportunity cost. All resources–land, labor, machinery, capital–can be employed somewhere else. Thus, all resources have opportunity costs wherever you choose to employ those resources.

Competition for land is intense

Most agricultural land in Iowa, 25,881,597 acres or 86.3% of the total land in farms, is used to grow crops. Of this cropland, 23,520,694 acres are harvested cropland, 2,078,005 acres are cropland idle or used for cover crops or soil-improvement, but not harvested and not pastured or grazed, 255,065 acres are other pasture and grazing land that could have been used for crops without additional improvement, 27,213 acres are cropland on which all crops failed or were abandoned, and 620 acres are cropland in summer fallow.

Woodland accounts for 1,224,543 acres or 4.1% of all agricultural land in Iowa. A majority of this is woodland not pastured versus woodland pastured at 921,340 acres and 303,203 acres, respectively. Permanent pasture and rangeland, other than cropland and woodland pastured, accounts for 1,687,658 acres or 5.6% of all agricultural land in Iowa (Figure 1). Land in farmsteads, homes, buildings, livestock facilities, ponds, roads, wasteland, etc. is 1,184,367 acres or 4.0% of Iowa’s agricultural land.

Read the full article by Dr. Lee Schulz in the March Ag Decision Maker newsletter.

Shifts in global competition

Over the past several months, the corn and soybean markets have been fixated on the potential production coming from South America. As our harvest was wrapping up last fall, the chatter about the upcoming South American crops began. And that speculation continues today, as the release of the March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report was more anticipated for its adjustments to global supplies than its shifts in domestic supply and demand. The global markets have expanded dramatically over the couple of decades. Production and consumption have both increased at rates faster than population, and corn and soybean trade has more than doubled since 2000. Much of that growth has occurred in South America.

Read the full article by Dr. Chad Hart in the March Ag Decision Maker newsletter.

Ag Decision Maker

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Profitability of winter cereal rye in integrated crop-livestock systems

Despite the numerous environmental benefits associated with cover crop use, such as reducing erosion, improving infiltration, mitigating nutrient loading in surface waters, and improving soil health, many farmers in the Midwestern United States are still reluctant to include cover crops in their production practices.

Using experimental agronomic data from six location-years in Iowa (Marcos et al. 2023) and a partial budget framework, Plastina et al. (2023) evaluated the annual private net returns to cereal rye as a winter cover crop in the no-till corn phase of an integrated corn-soybean and cow-calf system in Iowa.

Read the full article by Dr. Alejandro Plastina in the March 2024 Ag Decision Maker newsletter.

Ag Decision Maker

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New Census of Agriculture reveals more farms, more farmers in Iowa

Every five years the United States Department of Agriculture carries out an extensive survey of farms and farmers across the nation. The information that is collected and published serves a wide variety of purposes. One of the more important ones is to provide a snapshot of what farms and farmers at the national, state, and county level look like and how they are changing over time.

  • The number of farm units increased by 0.9%.
  • The number of farmer producers increased by 7.1%.
  • The average farm size decreased from 355 acres to 345 acres.
  • The number of small and medium acreage farms increased while the number of large acreage farms decreased.
  • The total acres of farmland decreased by 1.9%.
  • Crop sales accounted for 51% of total gross farm income, Livestock sales accounted for 44% and direct government payments accounted for 2%.

Read the full article by Dr. William Edwards on the Ag Decision Maker website.

Ag Decision Maker

An agricultural economics and business website.

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