Sterling R. Newell, 80, former chairman of the U.S. crop reporting board in the Departmemt of Agriculture, died of pneumonia Saturday at the Carriage Hill Nursing Home in Bethesda.

Mr. Newell began his career with Agriculture in 1926 and retired in 1962. His specialty was agriculture marketing and crop reporting. He received the department's Distinguished Service Award in 1959 for his role in designing a long-range program for improving reporting the nation's agricultural resources.

The reports of the crop reporting board directly affect commodity's future markets around the country because they forecast drop yields. They are also used by the government to determine acreage allotments and by farmers to help decide what and how much they grow.

In the course of his career, Mr. Newell, who was called Bert by his friends, was chief of the livestock branch at Agriculture, assistant chief of marketing research and director of agricultural estimates. He was chairman of the crop reporting board at the of his retirement.

He also wrote "Bert Newell's Letter," a feature in the "Agriculture Situation Bulletin," a publication of the Department of Agriculture that is read by farmers in all 50 states.

Following his retirement, Mr. Newell spent a year in Paris as a consultant to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He then worked as a consultant to several state governments on the reorganization of their departments of agriculture.

Mr. Newell was born in Falls Church. He served in the Army in World War I and then attended the University of Maryland, from which he graduated in 1922. (He received the university's Distinguished Service Award in 1959). He also earned a master's degree in economics at American University and did graduate work at Harvard University.

He was a member of the Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church in Washington, the Cosmos Club and the American Agricultural Economics Association.

Survivors include his wife, Esther, of the home in Washington; two daughters, Elizabeth Parsons, of Austinburg, Pa., and Hildreth Schultz, of Denver; a son, Sterling R. Jr., of Silver Spring; 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Arthritis and Rheumatism Association, 2424 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20037, or to the Memorial Fund of the Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, Nebraska and New Mexico Avenues NW, Washington, D.C., 20016.