USDA schedules survey of farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to begin surveying farmers on what crops they intend to plant for the 2015 harvest seasons.

Herman Ellison, director of the Virginia Field Office for the USDA’s statistics service, said 82,000 farmers nationwide will be surveyed for the annual prospective plantings report.

Ellison noted that the March survey looks at acreage as well as certain commodities planted in the spring, such as corn.

“We pretty much ask [the farmers] … what their intentions are for the upcoming year,”  Ellison said.

The USDA will conduct the survey by email or phone.

“It’s a starting point for this year,” Ellison said, adding that the USDA will conduct another survey in June looking at commodities such as soybeans.

“After the June survey is done, that is when you will start seeing the forecast numbers for yields and production,” he said.

The county-based numbers regarding 2014 crop and agricultural production for Virginia were released on Feb. 19.

According to the data, corn production for Shenandoah ended up being around where the statewide numbers were expected — down from 2013, but solid.

“The 2014 year was not bad … it just did not surpass the year before, which was a record for corn production,” Ellison said.

However, Shenandoah County actually saw more corn grain production in 2014, with 13,500 acres planted and 159.2 bushels per acre harvested.

By comparison, there were 13,300 acres of corn planted in Shenandoah in 2013 and 156.3 bushels per acre of corn grain harvested.

Ellison noted that, for soybean production in 2014, Virginia as a whole “had more harvested acres than 2013 and the yield was better.”

Those two factors caused soybean production to be up 9 percent from 2013, according to Ellison.

Shenandoah’s production for soybeans saw a similar jump in 2014. According to the Feb. 19 data, county farms harvested 5,290 acres of soybeans at 53.9 bushels per acre.

In 2013, county farms harvested 5,050 acres of soybeans at 49.7 bushels per acre — a jump greater than 9 percent.

A similar increase in soybean production was reported from farms in Clarke County. In 2014, farms harvested 2,600 acres of soybeans at 46.5 bushels per acre.

That is just under 9 percent more soybeans than the 41.7 bushels per acre Clarke County farms reported for 2013.

The prospective plantings report will be released March 31, along with the quarterly grain stocks report.

Ellison noted that these reports and surveys are vital pieces of information, not only for the state, but also for the agricultural industry across the nation.

“We just appreciate what the farmers do for us and thank them for reporting,” Ellison said. “Without them, we would not be able to put out releases like we do.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com