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Empirical confidence intervals for USDA commodity price forecasts


  • Olga Isengildina-Massa
  • Scott Irwin
  • Darrel Good
  • Luca Massa


Conventional procedures for calculating confidence limits of forecasts generated by statistical models provide little guidance for forecasts based on a combination or a consensus process rather than formal models, as is the case with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts. This study applied and compared several procedures for calculating empirical confidence intervals for USDA forecasts of corn, soybean and wheat prices over the 1980/81 through 2006/07 marketing years. Alternative procedures were compared based on out-of-sample performance over 1995/96 through 2006/07. The results of this study demonstrate that kernel density, quantile distribution and best fitting parametric distribution (logistic) methods provided confidence intervals calibrated at the 80% level prior to harvest and 90% level after harvest. The kernel density-based method appears most accurate both before and after harvest with the final value falling inside the forecast interval 77% of the time before harvest and 92% after harvest, followed by quantile regression (73% and 91% before and after harvest, respectively) logistic distribution (73% and 90% before and after harvest, respectively) and histogram (66% and 84% before and after harvest, respectively). Overall, this study demonstrates that empirical approaches may be used to construct more accurate confidence intervals for USDA corn, soybean and wheat price forecasts.

Suggested Citation

  • Olga Isengildina-Massa & Scott Irwin & Darrel Good & Luca Massa, 2011. "Empirical confidence intervals for USDA commodity price forecasts," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(26), pages 3789-3803.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:43:y:2011:i:26:p:3789-3803
    DOI: 10.1080/00036841003724429

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Victor Zarnowitz, 1992. "Business Cycles: Theory, History, Indicators, and Forecasting," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number zarn92-1, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bahram Sanginabadi, 2018. "USDA Forecasts: A meta-analysis study," Papers 1801.06575,
    2. Trapero, Juan R., 2016. "Calculation of solar irradiation prediction intervals combining volatility and kernel density estimates," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 266-274.
    3. Adjemian, Michael K. & Bruno, Valentina G. & Robe, Michel A., 2016. "Forward‚ÄźLooking USDA Price Forecasts," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts 235931, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Lee, Yun Shin & Scholtes, Stefan, 2014. "Empirical prediction intervals revisited," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 217-234.

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