USDA Pulling the Wool over Taxpayers’ Eyes with Latest ‘Cutback’

Diane Katz /

As Congress and the White House continue to quarrel over the debt ceiling, the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are doing their part to reduce federal spending. As announced in today’s Federal Register, the agency is cutting back on its Sheep and Goat Survey.

From now on—or for the time being, anyway—the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will conduct only a January Sheep and Goat Survey; the July edition has been surrendered to “budget constraints.”

The Sheep and Goat Survey is only one of hundreds of surveys conducted by the agency. Without a hint of bravado, officials contend that the statistics “provide the information necessary to keep agricultural markets stable and efficient.” To that end, then, let it be known that there were 5.53 million head of sheep and lambs on January 1, 2011, and 3 million head of goats.

It’s doubtful, however, that this bit of cost shearing will have much impact on USDA’s 2011 estimated budget of $148 billion (up from $130 billion in 2010).

USDA is ramping up a multitude of other initiatives to fulfill its stated mission of “developing the technology and tools necessary to transform rural America to take advantage of new opportunities.” The cornerstone of these efforts, according to the agency, are (1) increasing access to broadband and continuous business creation, (2) facilitating sustainable renewable energy development, (3) developing regional food systems, (4) capitalizing on climate change opportunities, and (5) generating and retaining jobs through recreation and natural resource restoration, conservation, and management.

All of which makes the Sheep and Goat Survey seem extraordinarily worthwhile by comparison.