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Shutdown Data Delay Is ‘Bad Deal’ for Farmers Who Need to Make Crop Plans

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 1/5/2019 Jeremy Hill and Isis Almeida
a man standing on top of a dirt field: A farmer pulls weeds from a field© Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg A farmer pulls weeds from a field

(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.

‘Bad Deal’

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.”

ReportUSDA UnitPublished During Shutdown?
Weekly grain-export inspectionsAgricultural Marketing Service (AMS)YES
Ad-hoc notices on crop-export salesForeign Agricultural Service (FAS)NO
Weekly crop-export salesForeign Agricultural Service (FAS)NO
WASDEOffice of the Chief Economist (OCE)NO
Crop Production Annual SummaryNational Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)NO
Crop ProductionNational Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)NO
Grain StocksNational Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)NO

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hill in New York at jhill273@bloomberg.net;Isis Almeida in Chicago at ialmeida3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net, Millie Munshi, Margot Habiby

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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