The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC), a cooperative non-profit devoted to providing educational outreach and information regarding the livestock markets, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) expressing concern over plans to cancel critical reports and modify programs related to government-issued livestock data.

LMIC’s membership consists of 28 land-grant universities, eight USDA agencies and 14 associate members who all live and work in the livestock space. LMIC is considered a leading public-private organization of agricultural economists and engaged stakeholders that use USDA data on a daily basis.

“The recent announcements made by USDA-NASS has left us gravely concerned both in areas of canceled reports and announced program changes to the livestock data. The cancellation of the July Cattle inventory report and proposed changes to the January Cattle report would create a major negative impact on the cattle industry and industry participants such as LMIC members and subscribers.

“The July cattle inventory report provides critical breeding herd and heifer retention information for the beef supply chain. It guides decisions for cow-calf producers, cattle growing and finishing operations, and packers, as well as informs the market participants who are engaging in risk management activities.

“Additionally, the dairy heifer replacement number recently hit a 20-year low, raising questions about structural change in the dairy industry, the use of reproduction technology, and dairy-born calves entering the beef supply chain,” stated LMIC in its letter signed by its director Katelyn McCullock.

The group added that, “The cancellation of the July Cattle report would have a direct negative impact to the LMIC membership by making forecasters less adaptive to changing supply conditions, introducing unknown variables (calf crop and heifer replacement) into the marketing pipeline, and creating greater uncertainty. Risk managers and bankers will struggle with client recommendations beyond a one-year timeline, and policy makers will need to create ever wider safety nets to encompass new market uncertainty.”

LMIC pointed out that the timing of canceling the July Cattle report could not be worse given the current dynamics of the U.S. cattle industry.

“The U.S. cattle herd has been contracting over the last several years and the July Cattle report is a key piece of data regarding when the industry will transition from contraction to an expansion phase. The July report also represents the first look at the calf crop for the year. These transitions can have swift pricing implications and the data are critical to helping our members prepare cow-calf and feedlot operations for what’s next. If these changes are made, we can expect more volatility in prices and greater uncertainty in our cattle and beef markets,” said the group.

In its letter, LMIC strongly encouraged USDA-NASS not to cancel county level estimates. These are extremely important to both extension and research efforts across the U.S. Extension state specialists are often tasked with delivering targeted programing whether it be for insurance programs, natural disaster information, or outlook, among other things. County level estimates are critical for these specialists to understand the counties to which they are speaking. The data are incredibly important for those who have been tasked with estimating natural disaster impacts for a particular region, where state level data is insufficient.