Millers, others press legislators on data reports

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — The North American Millers’ Association, joined by groups representing wheat, oilseed, fertilizer and cotton interests, have sent a letter to key legislators seeking funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to produce reports, including flour production, currently published by the Census Bureau.

The letter was sent to leaders from both parties of key congressional committees with oversight of agriculture including:

o Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture;
o Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, F.D.A., and Related Agencies;
o Representatives Frank Lucas of
o Oklahoma and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture;
o And Representatives Jack Kingston of Georgia and Sam Farr of California chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, F.D.A. and Related Agencies

The associations highlighted the value of the reports to federal agencies but also emphasized the importance of accurate commodity data in a time of heightened market volatility.

“While we recognize the challenging budgetary situation requires cuts and prioritization of government programs and services, we believe that the federal government is uniquely capable of providing the full and impartial data provided by the C.I.R.s (Current Industrial Reports),” the groups said. “Given the extraordinary price volatility in commodity markets, these reports are important sources of reliable data used by farmers, traders, and processors. Currently companies are required by law to provide the information and mandatory compliance provides higher quality data and results in better information circulated to the public.”

NAMA, as well as several other groups, have been working for months to ensure that the reports, which have been published for decades, continue uninterrupted. NAMA has been working with private data collection services as a stopgap measure or a long-term solution in the event the effort to seek continued government collection of the data fails (see Milling & Baking News of Aug. 9, Page 1).

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mssrs Stabenow, Lucas, Roberts, Peterson, Kohl, Kingston, Blunt, and Farr:

The organizations listed below write to express our strong support for providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) with the authority and funding to continue publication of six key commodity Current Industrial Reports (CIR), previously conducted by the Census Bureau.

As you may know, the administration’s FY12 budget would result in elimination of the CIRs, including those for oilseeds, wheat flour, cotton milling, fertilizer, and textiles. The information provided in these CIRs is vital to our members as well as numerous government agencies. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau announced its intention to terminate publication of the reports effective July 2011. There was no consultation with stakeholders prior to the decision to terminate them. Our organizations have written and met with the Census Bureau to urge reconsideration of the sudden termination of the reports without consultations, discussions of alternatives or a transition period. Subsequently, the alternatives of having U.S.D.A. assume this function has been discussed and has the support of our organizations.

It is our understanding that both legislative authority and funding would need to be provided for U.S.D.A. to be able to assume this function and continue publication of the CIRs. We urge your respective committees and subcommittees to provide the necessary authority and funding in the first or any appropriate legislative vehicles This will insure that the valuable information remains available with as little interruption as possible.

While we recognize the challenging budgetary situation requires cuts and prioritization of government programs and services, we believe that the federal government is uniquely capable of providing the full and impartial data provided by the CIRs. Given the extraordinary price volatility in commodity markets, these reports are important sources of reliable data used by farmers, traders, and processors. Currently companies are required by law to provide the information and mandatory compliance provides higher quality data and results in better information circulated to the public.

These publications are also used by federal agencies for numerous purposes. The CIRs provide vital industry information for U.S. negotiators as they formulate positions in trade negotiations that represent the domestic industry. For example, in all of the most recent Free Trade Agreements, the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) relies on the textiles report for information in safeguard cases. The information goes into a Commerce report specified in the implementing regulations for each agreement. Trade associations and private industry rely on these reports as background and benchmarks when dealing with trade remedy cases.

Within the U.S.D.A., the World Agricultural Outlook Board relies on the CIRs to establish monthly supply and demand estimates for the commodities. Data from the CIR program are also utilized by U.S.D.A.’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service. Loss of the reports leaves a significant void in the balance sheet for major U.S. agricultural commodities. In the current environment of tight stocks and increased commodity prices, loss of critical data will only add to the uncertainty and volatility characterizing agricultural markets.

Again, we urge your respective committees and subcommittees to provide the necessary authority and funding in the first or any appropriate legislative vehicles. Thank you for your consideration and please let us know if we can be of assistance in any way.

Sincerely,

American Soybean Association
Commodity Markets Council
Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Biodiesel Board
National Cotton Council
National Council of Textile Organizations
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Sunflower Association
North American Millers’ Association
The Fertilizer Institute
U.S. Canola Association

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