USDA cancels distillers grains survey

By Kris Bevill | October 21, 2011

A much-needed USDA survey of distillers grains usage has been cancelled as a result of expected budget cuts. The agency’s National Agricultural Statistics Service had been planning to conduct its first national survey to determine the rate of use of various distillers coproducts and identify what aspects contribute to livestock and poultry producers’ decision to use the feed. However, due to likely reductions to the agency’s funding in fiscal year 2012, the decision was made to cancel the survey, along with nine other programs. Several other reports will continue to be provided, but less frequently. “The decision to eliminate or reduce these reports was not made lightly, but it was nevertheless necessary, given the funding situation,” NASS said in a statement. “Because of the timing of the agency’s survey work during the coming year, these decisions are necessary now.”

According to comments collected by NASS earlier this year, many stakeholders felt that a survey of this type would be critical to understanding coarse grains and feed markets. Commenters said information from livestock and poultry producers explaining why they choose not to feed distillers grains would be useful to biofuels producers. Understanding how distillers grains products are used would also help to more accurately score the greenhouse gas ratings of biofuels.

NASS was planning to contact up to 70,000 livestock and poultry producers in January to gain information related to their distillers grains usage in 2011. When completed, the survey would have been the first nationwide survey of its type. A similar study, led by the Nebraska Corn Development, Utilization and Marketing Board with participation from NASS, was conducted in 2007 but covered just 12 states. The agency was planning to conduct its nationwide distillers grains survey once every five years as part of a new Energy Program, but currently has no plans to revisit the survey in coming years.