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JANUARY 30, 1907.
Present: Messrs. Littlefield (chairman), Samuel, and Flood.
Present also Mr. A. Zappone, Chief of the Division of Accounts and disbursing clerk, Department of Agriculture; Mr. Victor H. Olmsted, Chief of the Bureau of Statistics, Department of Agriculture, and others.
STATEMENT OF MR. 0. P. AUSTIN, CHIEF OF THE BUREAU OF
STATISTICS, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND LABOR. The witness was duly sworn by the chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. You are the head of the Bureau of Statistics in the Department of Commerce and Labor?
Mr. Austin. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you any knowledge as to the character of statistics that are collected by the statistical bureau in the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. Austin. I know that they collect statistics, and I frequently refer to them, and republish certain of them in the Statistical Abstract of our Bureau, but that is all I know about them.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any statistics collected by your Bureau that would be a duplicate of the statistical work done by them!
Mr. AUSTIN. They do reproduce certain statistics collected originally by our Bureau—that is, the statistics of imports and exports of agricultural products. They call upon us for our statements of imports and exports, article by article and country by country, and I recall that frequently they have apparently been waiting to obtain our proofs as soon as possible, in order to use them. At least, they say that they rely upon us for the statements of imports and exports of agricultural products, which they reproduce in a somewhat different form, reclassified and grouped.
The CHAIRMAN. Do they do any original collection of those statistics?
Mr. Austin. So far as relates to imports into and exports from the United States?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. Austin. No; I think I am perfectly safe in saying that, because the only source of that is the reports of the collectors of customs, and if they called upon the collectors of customs they would simply cause them double the amount of work in order to accomplish the same purpose.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you any men in the field collecting statistics? Mr. AUSTIN. None whatever.
The CHAIRMAN. Everything you do is done by circulars and correspondence and examination of other Departments?
Mr. Austin. Our chief work is the compilation of statistics of imports and exports. We receive, by law, monthly statements from the collector at each of the one hundred and odd ports, upon a given schedule, of the articles so imported or exported, giving the quantities where pússible and values in all cases. Those are compiled in the Bureau of Statistics, and the result given in our monthly publication and in our annual publication, showing the articles imported and
exported and the countries from which each group of articles comes or to which each group of articles goes.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have any other line of investigation except that of exports and imports?
Mr. AUSTIN. In our internal commerce work we collect as best we may the statistics of the movements of certain lines of merchandise on the Great Lakes and of the concentration and redistribution of certain great articles at a few of the great interior cities. On the lakes we supply to the captain of each vessel a special manifest, in which he is requested to state, of about a dozen articles, such as corn, wheat, flour, iron ore, copper ore, and coal, the quantity received and thé place at which received and the place at which discharged. He turns these in to the collectors of customs and the collectors of customs forward them to the Bureau of Statistics, and we compile the lake business in that way. That is something which is of recent origin, and it is only during the last few years that we have ever had any record of the lake commerce. I hope some day to be able to apply a similar system to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coastwise commerce, of which we have now no record whatever. But that is not pertinent to your question at present.
Then we also obtain, from the best sources we can—the reports of railroads, the reports of commercial bodies, and reports published in the newspapers-the quantity of certain great articles entering half a dozen or a dozen of the great interior markets like Chicago, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Sioux City; such as live stock, cattle, hogs, sheep, corn, and wheat entering those places, and meats, grain, and flour shipped out. Then, by comparing thé business of each month and each year with that of the previous months and years we are able to get an estimate of the relative condition of the internal commerce of the country in the great articles.
The CHAIRMAN. Does any of that work duplicate any work done by the Department of Agriculture, so far as you know? Mr. AUSTIN. I think not.
The CHAIRMAN. Does any of that work duplicate any work done in any other statistical bureau of the Government?
Mr. Austin. No; not so far as I know. I think none whatever. I know of no case in which that is attempted to be done.
The CHAIRMAN. What would be your judgment about the propriety of having a coordination of work, resulting from a conference of the heads of these various statistical bureaus in the various Departments? Would it accomplish useful results?
Mr. AUSTIN. You mean by that the head of the Census, the head of the statistical service of the Department of Agriculture, and the head of the Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Commerce and Labor?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes; and any other statistical bureaus; the heads of these different bureaus meeting and conferring with reference to the collection of statistics for the purpose of coordinating their work and seeing that one bureau did not overlap another.
Mr. Austin. It is not impossible and not improbable that that might result advantageously. Certainly an interchange of views and an attempt to cordially and earnestly cooperate in the general workand it ought to be such, of course, and I am sure it would be as far as
I am concerned-might result in some advantages in the statistical work. It certainly could not do any harm, and I think it might be advantageous.
The CHAIRMAN. No practice of that sort is now in vogue?
Mr. Austin. No, sir; not so far as I know, and I assume that I would have an opportunity to participate in any such system.
The CHAIRMAN. Do nearly all of the other Departments have statistical features?
Mr. Austin. The Department of Commerce and Labor has three bureaus engaged in statistical work-the Bureau of Statistics, the Bureau of the Census, and the Bureau of Labor. The Department of Agriculture has its Bureau of Statistics and its Division of Foreign Markets, and the Interstate Commerce Commission has its statistical office. I do not now think of any other statistical bureaus or organizations in any of the Departments which would have a line of service at all similar to our own in which any cooperation or consultation would be advantageous. The Treasury statistics, of course, are so purely those of finance and customs, receipts, currency, etc., that I think theirs would hardly have any close relation to ours.
The CHAIRMAN. You use a great many of their statistics as a basis for your circulars, do you not?
Mr. AUSTIN. Yes. We republish in our Statistical Abstract of the United States the figures collected by the Treasury Department regarding currency and revenue, those of the Department of Agriculture regarding production, and, indeed, almost everything of a statistical nature which we can find in a sufficiently condensed form to seem to justify us in bringing together, in a comparatively small volume, all of those great facts with reference to conditions in the United States, which it seems should be presented in one volume somewhere. That volume has gradually grown up. In the early days it contained almost exclusively the annual statement of the commerce. 1 hen gradually other things were added, and it has come to be looked upon by the public, I think, as the general vehicle for bringing before them the condensed statistics of conditions of commerce, finance, production, and all of those important features pertaining to the general welfare of the United States, including the area of the States, population, etc. And it is certainly a work very greatly in demand. We have calls for it from all parts of the world and at all times of the year. I think that the few pages which we devote to a reproduction of the figures of the Department of Agriculture are well devoted, because the attempt is to bring into one volume the great things which any man and every man studying the general conditions of the United States wants to know. And it is only with that purpose that we devote possibly half a dozen or a dozen pages to agricultural statistics.
The CHAIRMAN. How many people have you in your Bureau?
Mr. Austin. Fifty, in round numbers. It might be 49, or 48, or 51; but in general terms, 50. That includes messengers and the entire force, from the Chief of the Bureau to the laborers.
STATEMENT OF MR. LE GRAND POWERS, CHIEF STATISTICIAN OF
Mr. POWERS. Chief statistician of the Bureau of the Census in charge of the division of agriculture.
The CHAIRMAN. In collecting statistics for the census in that division do you duplicate in any way the work of the Statistical Bureau of the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. POWERS. I do not so consider it; no, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, you say you do not so consider it. Do you take the same kind of statistics?
Mr. POWERS. No, sir.
Mr. POWERS. We compile statistics based upon a house-to-house canvass of the farms of the country. By addition the data thus secured give us our totals of the crops actually raised and reported by the farmers.
The CHAIRMAN. Do your men who make the house-to-house canvass get the crops ?
Mr. Powers. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Does not the Department of Agriculture do the same thing, or does it get that information from you!
Mr. POWERS. The Agricultural Department, as I understand itits officials can, of course, tell better than I if I am wrong-secures certain returns from individuals in every town. It has a number of township correspondents, district correspondents, and State correspondents. These correspondents give in their reports to the Department, as I understand, their estimate of percentages of a normal crop which constitutes the crop of that year in their locality, and the Department is supposed to base its published estimates upon a combination of these local estimates and the census reports. The Department has for the census year a statement from its correspondents of the percentage of the normal crop which the crop of the census year may be. Using the census data by counties and by States the Department will, with the percentages furnished by its correspondents, figure out its estimate of the crop. In preparing that estimate, as I understand, it has a large number of correspondents of various grades; first, the local correspondents or township correspondents, then county and State correspondents; all these correspondents to prepare estimates of the crops in their localities, and the Department combines such estimates, and by such combination secures its results, which are estimates and not the results of an enumeration, as is the report of the census.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you take those annually?
Mr. Powers. That is all in connection with the Division of Manufactures, with which I have nothing to do. They collect statistics from the gins every year, and thus ascertain the actual amount not grown but ginned. And that is the same, of course, in amount as that of the cotton grown. You get in that way an actual bona fide
(Witnesses: Olmsted, Powers.) report of cotton. It is a method which secures its results with less than one-fortieth the number of reports that are utilized by my division.
In 1900 the manufacturing census took for the first time a ginning report, and that was compared with the census report of agriculture. The two reports differed by only a fraction of 1 per cent, and that was due to what was considered in the office the imperfections of the first effort on the part of the Manufactures Division to collect these statistics. It is believed by all officials in the Census that all of that earlier shortage of about one-half of 1 per cent has been overcome. The two reports in 1900 running parallel—one by the farmer and the other by the ginner, the one who raises and the one who handles the crop—were found to be practically identical, varying, as I have said, by about one-half of 1 per cent.
Under present methods that variation would doubtless be less than the one-hundredth part of 1 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN. Substantially identical.
The CHAIRMAN. How often are those ginning reports taken by the Census Bureau ?
Mr. POWERS.. They are taken every year.
Mr. POWERS. They begin just as soon as the ginning begins-in September, or about that time--and are continued until the ginning operation closes, which is some time in January, ordinarily.
The CHAIRMAN. When do they make that report public?
Mr. OLMSTED. There is a report made up to January, and then they have a hiatus, and then a report along in March or April. These are simply partial.
Mr. POWERS. They give the report of how much has been ginned. The CHAIRMAN. It was suggested that a report in June would be advantageous.
Mr. POWERS. That is, a report on the acreage. That which is sown; the new crop.
The CHAIRMAN. Is that taken by the Census Bureau?
Mr. POWERS. No, sir. The Agricultural Department makes an estimate of that.
Mr. OLMSTED. I would be very glad if the Census Office were authorized to take a census of acreage every year. It would be a very great help. But as it is now we have to estimate it. We give the best estimate we can.
The CHAIRMAN. The only annual information taken by the Census Bureau is this information in relation to ginning?
Mr. POWERS. Yes, that is all.
The CHAIRMAN. And that is taken during the ginning season and made public as soon thereafter as it can be summarized ?
Mr. POWERS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. In that case, I do not see where there is any foundation for any suggestion of a report of that kind in June, because there is nothing going on.
Mr. OLMSTED. No; the report in June is a report of acreage.
The CHAIRMAN. The Census Bureau does not have to do with acreage except once in ten years?