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Farm Bureau members see crop report release up close

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/08/2013 3:56 PM

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Dave Marquardt said he came away from his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with a new appreciation for the USDA crop report.

He and his wife, Julie, of Wright County and Wanda and Chuck Patsche of Martin County were in a group who visited the agricultural department and witnessed the release of the Sept. 12 crop report.

Marquardt said he questioned how secretive the process was, but after the visit he said there is absolutely no way to get the information out before the release time. It's a very secure and comprehensive process, he said.

Fact gathering begins in the field, Julie said. USDA employees watch a portion of a field every month. The farmer doesn't know what portion is checked, but with technology the USDA employee can find the same spot on each visit to the field. Data is also gathered via telephone survey.

The data is submitted online, but it is encrypted. It is not until 3:30 a.m. on the day of release that USDA employees begin downloading the data, Patsche said.

Everything is done to the minute, she said.

They were ushered into a room to listen to the report, but not before twice signing a document that they were not carrying a cell phone or any wire-taping devices, Julie said.

All the windows in the room are sealed. Cell phones are banned. There are even provisions for medical emergencies, Patsche said.

On the way to the room where the report was released, they saw someone running down the hall to stop the presses as someone found a mistake in the printed report, Patsche said.

About a half hour before the data was released to the public at noon eastern time, they received a copy of the report that was still hot, Dave said.

At 11:45 a.m. the secretary comes in to sign the report. The Agriculture Secretary normally signs the report before it is publicly released, but on the day of their visit he was called to the White House so an undersecretary signed the report, Dave said.

The entire visit lasted three hours.