Digging into the numbers

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As an ag journalist, I have done a lot of digging. However, my digging had nothing to do with a shovel and dirt. Instead, this digging often meant spending hours reviewing notes, charts, statistics and research papers from various sources within the agricultural community.

At times, it can be a very tedious and mentally draining process. After all, numbers start to run together and research papers aren’t exactly the latest best-selling novel.

But this information is important, because this information is the backbone to things that can directly impact agricultural producers, either immediately or in the future. And even though it may not be at the top of your reading list, it’s at least worth your while to know what is out there.

Of course, today’s communications makes this data much more accessible (try reading a USDA report on thermal fax paper), and you can almost at an instant read several reports from experts that have digested the information for you.

Here’s one that I found of particular interest.

The market is still buzzing after the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report, and as always everyone is trying to crunch the numbers to determine if the USDA’s estimate is correct, and if producers will adjust their activities based on the report.

What noted University of Illinois agricultural economists Darrel Good and Scott Irwin did was look at past data to determine “whether the historical relationship between planting intentions and final planted acreage provides further clues how planted acreage in 2014 might deviate from planting intentions.”

Their finding: “Our analysis indicates that the prospective plantings of corn, soybeans, and all principal crops are unbiased estimates of final planted acreage. However, there is considerable variation in the relationships from year-to-year and prospective plantings substantially under-estimates the sum of final planted acreage and prevented plantings for the same categories.

“The inconsistent relationships in planting intentions, actual plantings, and prevented plantings only adds to the difficulty of anticipating actual planted acreage of principal crops in 2014 based on March intentions.”

It’s an excellent read.

What market data do you follow on a regular basis?


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