Statistics Canada is reviewing the timing of its traditional April seeding intentions report, after making a major change to the way it compiled data for the report this year.
The seeding intentions report for 2023, released last week, was based on a farmer survey conducted from December 12, 2022, to January 14, 2023. Historically, the April acreage estimates were based on a survey done a few weeks earlier in late March.
The change in survey timing was made as part of StatCan’s AgZero initiative, which aims to reduce the survey burden on farmers to as close to zero as possible by 2026 by using other data sources, such as satellite observations and machine learning.
However, the extended timeframe between the December survey and the report’s release last week led grain market analysts and farmers to question the numbers, noting it did not account for price declines that occurred in the meantime, as well as information about crop insurance coverage for 2023.
“Why on earth Stats Canada decided to poll acres in December is beyond me… Nobody had a final crop plan in mind yet,” notes Brian Voth, president of IntelliFarm.
“Quite a bit can change between then and when farmers make their final decisions. For example, for most provinces, crop insurance coverage only comes out after those dates, and to the extent that that shifts, seeding, planting intentions, maybe makes a bit of a difference,” explained Jon Driedger of LeftField Commodity Research, breaking down the report on RealAg Radio last week. “You back the clock up a few months during a time when farmers are still making decisions and it lends itself to a bigger revision in June than we might typically see.”
The data in the April 26 report “was not adjusted to account for variables which may have changed between the time of collection and the time of release,” confirms Statistics Canada spokesperson Carter Mann, in an email to RealAgriculture.
He says the agency maintained the historical April release date to ensure it had enough time to address any issues that arose from the change in methodology.
“Moving forward, the Agriculture Division will be reassessing the timing of next year’s seeding intentions release, with the goal of producing seeding intentions estimates earlier than the traditional April release date, and closer to the collection window for the December survey,” says Mann.