METRICS FROM THE FIELD: Local Data Is Endangered
Keywords:Food Systems, Data, Federal Policy
First paragraphs:One of the quiet impacts of the interruption of federal services in the U.S. — both the ongoing sequestration and the fall 2013 shutdown — was a tragic loss of local-level economic data. This critically threatens our ability to measure the success of community-based foods initiatives.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), a unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has enjoyed a deservedly solid reputation for publishing impartial data sets. Its Local Area Personal Income Statistics (LAPI), in particular, have offered essential measures of local economic activity. Few nations have comparable data.
Yet on November 21, 2013, BEA (2013b) announced that it had suspended publication of several critical local data sets. No longer will BEA report detailed data on farm income and expenses for counties across the U.S. It has stopped reporting transfer payments (such as SNAP benefits) at the county level. BEA will no longer publish local area employment data by industry, nor detailed local summaries of employee compensation or earnings. Gone are its compilations of data covering BEA economic areas (regions defined by economic trade rather than strictly political boundaries). The BEA has also eliminated its Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) product — an essential tool for gauging economic impacts of local development plans....
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