Out of the office and into the fields

By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer

There’s no shortage of businesses that have field offices.

But, right now, the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Las Cruces is literally sending their officers into the field — crop fields across eastern New Mexico.

They want to know what farmers are planting and how much.

The NASS New Mexico Field Office is busy collecting data for its annual June Agricultural Survey and June Area Survey.

In the first two weeks of June, approximately 450 farmers in the state will be the subject of personal interviews — on a voluntary basis.

“It’s going pretty good. I’d say we’re probably getting 85 to 90 percent cooperation,” said Wes Shafer, supervisor in eastern New Mexico for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), whose manpower is being tapped to conduct the survey.

Shafer, who is based in Grady and is a supervisor for four other enumerators, said judging what crops are being grown could be done visually with some degree of accuracy. This survey, however, requires more detailed answers from farmers themselves.

Besides the 450 interviews conducted in person, 750 more state crop farmers will be queried over the phone.

Information compiled from the June Agricultural and June Area surveys will be published by the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual “Acreage” and “Grain Stocks” reports due June 30.

“With planting underway, now is the time to find out what is actually going into the ground,” said Jim Brueggen, director of the NASS New Mexico Field Office. “This information will benefit farmers and the entire agricultural industry by providing timely and accurate data to help them make critical business decisions.”

Only a small percentage of farmers approached for the annual survey refuse to cooperate.

“Well, some of them just don’t like to talk to government people,” Shafer said.

Scott Rumburg, deputy director at the same office, said the two areas of the state having the highest amount of planters are Las Cruces and eastern New Mexico.

“In March, we have a survey of what they’re intending to plant. At this juncture, with your crops in the ground, you’re kind of committed,” Rumburg said. “Once you’ve planted, you’ve still got options although they get less and less.”

When the actual use statistics come out, farmers in the area are expected to pay close attention.

“Based on what you’re growing, you’ll have options. If you’ve overgrown on corn, there’s nothing saying that you can’t cut it for silage,” Rumburg added.