April 30, 2015, has been set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the tentative date for its maiden publication of quarterly U.S. flour production data. As compilers and disseminators of the industry’s production figures, the department is taking over from Veris Consulting, a private company engaged since 2011 by the North American Millers’ Association to collect the data, and the U.S. Census Bureau, which gathered the data from 1923 until 2011.
While it will be more than half a year before flour production data from the newest source is set to be available, officials at the department stress the critical importance of work currently under way. Specifically, the Environmental and Demographics Section of the U.S.D.A. tasked with this new assignment is reaching out to milling companies for data covering the July-September 2014 period. While 2015 is the official start of U.S.D.A. flour coverage, the department rightly notes 2014 surveys will be vital both to help iron out kinks in its collection and reporting and to give the industry benchmark figures against which to begin measuring 2015 data.
“A great deal depends on the response rate and quality of data received for 2014,” the U.S.D.A. said. While providing these data to a third source in four years is no small burden on the industry, the value to milling and beyond of ensuring an accurate statistical record of this industry surely justifies the extra effort.