Shutdown Data Delay Is ‘Bad Deal’ for Farmers Who Need to Make Crop Plans
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government shutdown means the Department of Agriculture will delay the release of several market-moving reports at a time when farmers start to make their planting decisions for the upcoming season.
The USDA’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates won’t be released on Jan. 11 as originally planned even if the government resumes operations before then, the agency said Friday. That’s because of the lead-in time needed to gather and analyze data. Other key data sets, including figures on grain stockpiles and winter-wheat seedings, will also be delayed.
The USDA will resume issuing reports as soon as possible after funding is restored to minimize impact on markets, Robert Johansson, the agency’s chief economist, said by phone from Washington.
The January publications won’t be canceled, as they were during a shutdown in October 2013. During that period, crop samples went bad, making it impossible to accurately estimate yields, Johansson said.
Amid the shutdown, the USDA has also stopped publishing data on crop-export sales. That comes as China has recently waded back into U.S. markets for soybeans. Without official government figures, the market has been left to rely on rumors and tough-to-confirm sales reports.
The WASDE regularly moves agricultural commodities markets. But delaying this month’s report, in particular, is an especially “bad, bad deal” for the market, Ted Seifried, chief market strategist at Zaner Group in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.That’s in part because the January report finalizes crop production figures from the prior year, which traders and producers use to plan for the coming season.
Not having the data, “makes it very difficult for the market to decide on which way we should go,” he said.
When the shutdown began choking access to USDA data late last month, “a very significant public good was removed from the market," said Sara Menker, chief executive officer of Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data analysis company.
Gro Intelligence, which provides data feeds as well as crop and weather forecasts, is offering free access to its platform for the duration of the shutdown in an effort to mitigate the data gap left by the USDA, Menker said.
“It is very bad timing,” Seifried said of the USDA report delays. “Most importantly, it makes it very difficult for producers to decide what they’re going to do for a marketing plan and decide what to do for their acreage allocation.”
|Report||USDA Unit||Published During Shutdown?|
|Weekly grain-export inspections||Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)||YES|
|Ad-hoc notices on crop-export sales||Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)||NO|
|Weekly crop-export sales||Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)||NO|
|WASDE||Office of the Chief Economist (OCE)||NO|
|Crop Production Annual Summary||National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)||NO|
|Crop Production||National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)||NO|
|Grain Stocks||National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)||NO|
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