Each year, a few Indiana Farm Bureau members are allowed to participate in USDA “lockups” in Washington, D.C., and are among the first to hear the findings of the August and September crop reports.
“Lockup” is the term used to describe the special security conditions under which the USDA compiles and issues its crop reports. INFB brings 12 Farm Bureau members from across the state to the August lockup, and in September, Collegiate Farm Bureau leaders are invited.
The USDA prepares and disseminates hundreds of reports every year providing the official USDA estimates on crops, livestock and economic indicators for the agricultural industry. Indiana farmers pay special attention to August’s crop estimates to gauge how their yields might compare to state and national averages and plan the marketing and movement of their commodities throughout the year.
Because having early access to the crop report would give a significant advantage in trading on the commodities market, USDA staff undergoes a rigorous process of encrypting the data and physically securing the area until the information is released to the public.
Bob White, INFB director of national government relations, was present for the August lockup.
“National Ag Statistics Service employees have been hard at work through the night compiling the estimates,” White explained. “When those of us that have been invited arrive for the announcement, we must surrender our phones and other devices with access to the internet to keep the information secure until the USDA secretary signs the report and the information becomes public.”
INFB members joined White in August to experience the lockup firsthand. White explained the value of attending the August reading.
“Attending a lockup is a really great experience,” said White. “Most Indiana farmers follow the USDA’s estimates, but it can be hard to understand where the numbers come from, how they are collected or even exactly what they mean. Before we hear the findings, NASS staff give attendees a thorough presentation on their process. Having this kind of background helps our members understand the bigger picture. I think our members really enjoy the exclusive experience.”
Collegiate Farm Bureau leaders from Purdue and Vincennes universities were authorized to attend September’s lockup to learn about the process as they plan for their futures in agriculture.
Morgan Winder, a Purdue agriculture education and economics major, was thrilled about the opportunity to experience the lockup and visit the nation’s capital with Indiana Farm Bureau staff.
“As a junior in college I got to spend three days here [D.C.]. I’ve loved every minute of this trip and I can see my future unfolding in front of me,” said Winder.
If you’re not currently following the USDA’s various reports, you can learn more on the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s website.