NASS launches survey of ethanol corn use, coproduct production

By Susanne Retka Schill | September 30, 2014

In late October, ethanol producers will be receiving the first of what will become monthly surveys to report corn crush and coproduct production. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service officially launched its Current Agricultural Industrial Reports program in preparation to begin reporting data on several agricultural processing industries, replacing the Census Bureau’s Current Industrial Reports program that was discontinued three years ago. The NASS website was unveiled Sept. 29. In addition to the ethanol industry, other surveys being done in the CAIR program will cover flour milling, fats and oilseeds, and cotton.

Under the CAIR survey program, wet and dry mill ethanol producers will receive separate surveys asking for each month’s corn crush and coproducts production numbers. NASS agricultural statistician David Colwell said the survey will include most of the coproduct types previously reported in the Census Bureau’s report, plus some new ones.  Wet mills will report high fructose corn syrup production and data on CO2 capture will now be gathered, as examples. Confidentiality rules, he added, require the agency not report data where a single producer dominates a production category and could be identified.  However, those producers can request the data be published, once a written authorization is signed. Survey responses are confidential and used only in combination with similar reports from other producers

The agency expects to release its first report early in 2015, Colwell said, covering the last three months of the year, if possible. The exact timing of the first report is uncertain, he added, as it will depend on how smoothly the first round of survey responses goes. The completeness of the first survey will determine whether October’s results are reported as well. It may take a month, or even two, to work out the bugs in the system, he explained.   

To prepare for the program launch, NASS conducted extensive work this summer building up baseline profiles of ethanol producers. The agency announced the effort in June, and began the outreach to the ethanol industry. An operation profile was completed for each facility to categorize it as a wet or dry mill, determine nameplate production capacity and determine the preferred reporting manner. While some plants will report on an individual basis, other companies will have the headquarters report for all their locations. The agency reported it has operation profile data gathered for 200 ethanol facilities with a combined nameplate capacity of 14.792 billion gallons.

The Census Bureau discontinued its collection of data for the Current Industrial Report program, which began in 1904, as it prepared for the 2012 fiscal year budget. The last two years of data available on the bureau’s CIR website are for 2010 and 2011, with the last available report giving data for July 2011. Historical data for prior years can be purchased, according to the website. The M311J  report, “Fats and Oils: Oilseed Crushings” tracked soybean, cottonseed, peanut and corn oil production. One of the tables covered dry and wet corn mill production, giving totals for corn grind in wet and dry mill facilities, as well as feed products. The wet mill products were separated into types of gluten and germ feed, and the dry mill reports separated multiple forms of distillers grains. Imports and exports were reported for crude corn oil along with soy, cotton, peanut and sunflower products.

“As soon as the Census Bureau announced they were discontinuing the Current Industrial Reports, we began hearing from agriculture stakeholders around the country about the impact this decision had on the industry,” said NASS Administrator Joseph T. Reilly, in a statement announcing the CAIR program launch. “These reports are such an important element of sound economic policy planning and are used for market analysis, forecasting, and decision making that we knew we had to provide the data and I’m glad that beginning this year NASS is able to do just that.”