The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report is prepared monthly and includes forecasts for U.S. and world wheat, rice, and coarse grains (corn, barley, sorghum, and oats), oilseeds (soybeans, rapeseed, palm), and cotton. U.S. coverage is extended to sugar, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board analysts chair the Interagency Commodity Estimates Committees (ICECs) comprising representatives from several key USDA agencies. The nine ICECs- one for each commodity- compile and interpret information from USDA and other domestic and foreign official sources to produce the report.
The ICECs rely on Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) attaché reports and analysis of foreign commodity developments, Economic Research Service (ERS) domestic and foreign regional assessments, and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) U.S. crop and livestock estimates. For domestic policy and market information, the Board relies on the Farm Services Agency and the Agricultural Marketing Service. WAOB and FAS use weather analysis and satellite imagery to monitor crop conditions. Additional private and public information sources are considered.
This broad information base is reviewed and analyzed by ICEC members who bring diverse expertise and perspectives to the report. To arrive at consensus forecasts, alternative assessments of domestic and foreign supply and use are vetted at the ICEC meetings. Throughout the growing season and afterwards, estimates are compared with new information on production and utilization, and historical revisions are made as necessary.
The WASDE reports a full balance sheet for each commodity. Separate estimates are made for components of supply (beginning stocks, imports, and production) and demand (domestic use, exports, and ending stocks). Domestic use is subdivided into major categories, for example corn for feed and corn for ethanol. Domestic use may be based on data from other Federal agencies: for example, U.S. wheat ground for flour, soybeans crushed for oil, and cotton mill use come from the Bureau of the Census. The demand side of the balance sheet may include a category for “residual” or “unaccounted” disappearance to balance known uses against total supplies.
The WASDE also reports forecast season-average farm prices for most items. Prices tie together both sides of the balance sheet. Market prices aid in rationing available supplies among competing uses. Prices also indicate potential supply responses, for example potential planting decisions for the upcoming year. The process of forecasting price and balance sheet items is complex and involves the interaction of expert judgment, commodity models, and in-depth research by USDA analysts on key domestic and international issues.
To assure the highly market-sensitive information is released simultaneously to all end-users, and not prematurely to any one, the WASDE report is prepared under tight security in a specially designed area of USDA’s South Building. The morning of release, doors in the “lockup” area are secured, window shades are sealed, and telephone and Internet communications are blocked. Once analysts present their credentials to a guard, they enter the secured area to finalize the WASDE report. Communications with the outside world are suspended until the report is released at 12:00 noon Eastern time.