"A Bayesian Approach to Estimating Agricultural Yield Based on Multiple Repeated Surveys" - Scott Holan, PI, University of Missouri
Forecasting the end-of-year crop yield is critical for agricultural decision-making and inherently difficult. Historically, a panel of commodity specialists known as the Agricultural Statistics Board convene regularly to set estimates based on expert review of a combination of survey data and administrative/auxiliary information. To make this process less subjective and more repeatable, we develop a Bayesian hierarchical model that produces superior yield forecasts/estimates, while quantifying different sources of uncertainty. The proposed hierarchical model naturally combines information from multiple monthly surveys measured on different temporal supports, including a field measurement survey and two farmer interview surveys. The dependence between the monthly updated surveys and the serial dependence of the annual yield are incorporated at different levels of the hierarchy. The effectiveness of our approach is demonstrated through an application from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Empirical results indicate that the hierarchical model produces superior forecasts to both the panel of experts and the composite estimator developed by Keller and Olkin (2002), while providing an accurate measure of uncertainty.