We all know data is everywhere today. We know that the United States government has been partially shutdown for about five weeks. Because of this, the much-anticipated World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report (it was scheduled to be released on January 11th) is now delayed until the government resumes its normal operations. Farmers work on seasons: seeds in the spring, and harvests in the fall. During the winter months, farmers focus on their business operations. The report helps market traders anticipate future crop prices and helps farmers plan for the coming year. Its absence will only add more uncertainty to a market coming off a tough 2018.
In any business, the lack of information is not a good thing. In this case, the lack of information for the farmers is only going to add to market volatility. Those reports help even the playing field for everyone. And while I don’t think the lack of data will likely have an immediate impact on farmers' lives, farmers will very likely feel its ripple effects. It will make it very difficult for producers to decide what they’re going to do for a marketing plan and decide what to do for their acreage allocation.
Data helps plants grow
Commodity traders, economists, grain merchants and farmers are anxious for crop updates as they work to protect their financial balance sheets and make spring planting decisions.
Like a CFO that would not have his data to forecast his quarter, farmers now have to rely on alternative sources of data as the USDA is shutdown. Some have been searching social media for information on shifting weather patterns and rumors of grain exports; some are relying on private crop forecasters, satellite imagery firms and brokerages offering analyses on trade and supplies.
Some private businesses see the shutdown as an opportunity to highlight their own data and analytic services. As two different examples, Gro Intelligence has been offering free access to its data platform since Dec. 27, while ABCD grain merchants now have their own information gathering and collection processes that can give them market insights unavailable to the broader public. Farmers may find other open access data resources during the shutdown. In October 2018, precision ag start-up OneSoil released its OneSoil Map database to the public. The map allows users to see how fields have changed over prior years and includes information on fields and crops in 43 countries.
The value of data is once again highlighted in this unusual set of circumstances. The data produced in these reports helps farmers make a variety of business decisions: from crops to equipment to investments. More than ever, we are realizing that data is around us, crucial to our decision-making process; but more importantly, it will probably make more industries realize that the data they gather can become their next source of revenue.
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