The August 12 WASDE report was the first crop production update this year from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service to use actual in-field surveys and interviews with farmers to gather its data.
Director of the Iowa NASS Field Office, Greg Thessen acknowledges that a perennial aspect of USDA's crop forecasts is the questions analysts have about accuracy, but he also points out that they do a lot more than other organizations.
He says, "I'm not going to say there's no forecast error, because any forecast that's based on a survey has an error around it. But we like to think that ours are as accurate as any out there. We talk to more farmers than any other organization, we're in more fields than any other organization. So, they should be as accurate or more accurate than any other forecast that a producer might see and they're the ones that help us make it more accurate."
Nearly 25,000 producers across the United States were surveyed this year. As the year goes on, the NASS report gets more accurate.
Thessen says, "So in general, in August, our numbers are usually within six percent of what the final number will end up being. So as we get more and more information as it gets closer to harvest, and producers know what their yields are going to be maybe they've been out in a few fields, the forecast becomes more accurate. So by the time we get to October, it's probably within two percent of the final."