It’s a phrase you’ve no doubt heard many times over, and it’s often true that the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ Fortunately, complaints sent to the USDA’s Market News Service resulted in a reprieve for the California Weekly Hay Report which was about to be eliminated at the end of December.
The sudden notice that the Weekly Hay Report for California was shutting down on Dec. 30 was a big surprise to CAFA and others. Early last year CAFA became involved with the Market News Service, which asked for recommendations to help the agency streamline its Weekly Hay Report. There was no indication that it could become a lame duck in the not too distant future.
The importance of the weekly report was obvious when users vented. The response was evident when the Dec. 15 Hay Report carried this statement: “A previous notice on this report stated that it would be discontinued as of Dec. 30, 2011. However, based on feedback received from users, LGMN has decided to continue this report for the time being”.
The key words in the statement are, “for the time being.” CAFA will monitor the situation and be ready to respond if necessary. Whether you’re a grower, dairyman or anyone else who deals with forages, the USDA’s market program is essential. How much money might be lost if the weekly report is shutdown is hard to determine, but it could cost growers thousands of dollars or even much more money each year.
What’s in store is difficult to figure out at this point, but the USDA’s cost cutting mandate doesn’t bode well for the future. As reported in the Jan. 7 Western Farm Press, the Shafter Station in Kern County has closed even though its researchers were working on combating a deadly fungal disease for cotton that stays in the soil for many years.
Last year CAFA and several other organizations made a pitch to keep the Shafter Station open and expand it to add other commodities. Although alfalfa is California’s largest acreage crop and has a farm gate value over $1 billion, much more USDA-ARS research is needed. Our response that was presented to USDA focused on alfalfa’s contributions to the environment, IPM programs that benefit cotton and other crops, and the need for higher water use efficiency and increasing yield varieties.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R - Kern County) was successful in keeping the Shafter Station alive when the USDA first wanted to close the facility. McCarthy went to bat again last season to try and keep the Station going. So far, there are three other closures in California; one in Monterey County and two in Los Angeles County. Interestingly, 131 Farm Service agencies are on the hit list, but none of them are in California.
Since money is so tight, it won’t be much of a surprise if the USDA’s Market News Service decides to pull the plug from the Weekly Hay Report. Market knowledge is essential and a solution if needed is an annual fee, something that was in place once before and it may be back again.