Getting to know the NASS, while prepping to say goodbye.

I've been digging into agricultural stats recently. Because I know how to party. Under the auspices of such raging, I found something that disturbs me. As with too many things, this change is due to short-sighted budgetary politics. As such, I'm sure no one in this Congress is going to do anything to fix it.

Since as far back as 1863, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has tracked and estimated production numbers for a wide array of agribusinesses. Basically, the USDA surveys the amount of crops and animals raised in the U.S. I'll imperfectly compare this tradition of gathering and reporting stats with the way the NCAA supposedly tracks and governs a whole wide world of sports. Even though everyone focuses on football and basketball because they generate the overwhelming majority of cash. When it comes to what's produced by agribusinesses in the U.S., cows and corn are essentially football and basketball. But don't forget about goats, sheep, honey, mink, catfish - the list of agribusinesses surveyed in the U.S. is diverse, fascinating and occasionally controversial. These categories may provide the anecdotal equivalents of baseball, soccer, gymnastics, fencing, crew and any other redheaded stepchildren sports still kept under the watchful eye of the NCAA. They'll never get the same exposure or impact, but what if no one bothered watching out for them at all? I'd apply that same question for those agribusinesses that will no longer be covered by these annual inventories. Which begs the larger question - what's the cost savings of eliminating all these statistical measures used to estimate what's produced in the U.S.? A massively underwhelming $11M buckaroos, annually. Even though the folks that do this work - the National Agriculture Statistics Survey - hail from the sort of agency even good ol' boys like Rick Perry would probably deem worthy of saving.

I expect no champions to arise in praise of this USDA program. Which is a pretty sad state of affairs for a nation built on farms that certainly didn't just raise cows or corn. Maybe we are so fully diluted and withdrawn from the nation's agricultural roots that we no longer care about what those still in the business of raising things actually do. Still, we're willing to just quit tracking what happens in these and so many other categories of American endeavor for a measly $11M? Lame.