What Do Prospective Plantings Tell Us About Planted Acreage?

Prospective Plantings reports are survey-based estimates of producer planting intentions that are typically released at the end of March and reflect producer responses to the March Agricultural Survey. Good and Irwin (2011) provide a thorough review of the survey procedures used by the USDA. As one of the first indications of the upcoming supply for the new crop year, these reports have been shown to have significant impacts on commodity markets (e.g. Dorfman and Karali, 2015; Xie et al, 2016). However, like any survey-based estimates, Prospective Plantings are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors. While USDA goes to a great extent to minimize potential errors through their survey design and reported data review procedures, some error is unavoidable. The purpose of this article is to assess reliability of Prospective Plantings estimates based on their track record over the last 20 years. In doing so, we are expanding on brief reliability analyses published at the end of each prospective plantings report and taking a more detailed look at the errors associated with these estimates. Several earlier farmdoc daily articles (e.g., April 4, 2014; October 15, 2015; January 27, 2016) examine additional issues related to USDA acreage reports.

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