WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, is calling the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to focus on day-to-day functions, not the Biden administration’s political goals, after the hastily executed rollout of a new export sales data reporting system failed.
The most recent weekly export sales data collected by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) was pulled offline shortly after being published due to what USDA has called “unanticipated difficulties” with the launch of its new Export Sales Reporting and Maintenance System. FAS has since said that it will be unable to publish weekly export sales data while it works to temporarily revert to the legacy system.
In a letter sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Boozman said the misstep raises concerns that USDA senior officials are more focused on implementing the Biden administration’s political agenda than conducting the vital day-to-day responsibilities that stakeholders depend on.
“From a stakeholder perspective, this misstep suggests USDA’s senior leadership is not attune to the department’s important, day-to-day functions. I strongly encourage you to ensure that senior USDA leadership does not put the administration’s political agenda ahead of the department’s fundamental mission, which is to provide stability to U.S. agriculture and its stakeholders,” Boozman wrote.
Boozman noted this unforced error was costly and avoidable.
“While I appreciate the need to modernize outdated systems, the decision was made to launch a new reporting system before properly training reporting entities and proper testing for technical glitches. As a result of what some suggest was a hurried decision to launch, U.S. and world traders are now limited in price discovery for many commodities for a duration of three weeks, notably at the beginning of the marketing year for corn and soybeans. I am concerned about how this will impact global food price volatility in a time of high inflation and food supply challenges with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and worsening crop conditions in the U.S. and abroad,” Boozman wrote.
Boozman requested a detailed plan for the outreach, education and training of reporting entities and other key stakeholders as well as a timeframe for the future roll out of the new system.