U.S. shutdown sends grain merchants, farmers attempting to find knowledge

U.S. shutdown sends grain traders, farmers hunting for data

By P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When the U.S. Division of Agriculture introduced final week {that a} slew of key farm experiences wouldn’t be launched on Friday because of the partial authorities shutdown, the telephones at crop forecaster Gro Intelligence blew up.

The USDA was set to launch its views on the projected dimension of U.S. soybean stockpiles, amongst different knowledge, following a record-large home harvest and a commerce battle with China that has slowed U.S. exports.

Commodity merchants, economists, grain retailers and farmers are anxious for crop updates as they work to challenge their monetary stability sheets and make spring planting selections.

“It has been loopy busy,” stated Sara Menker, chief govt of New York-based Gro Intelligence.

The shutdown, now in its third week, has rippled throughout the already struggling U.S. farm financial system forward of President Donald Trump’s deliberate deal with on the American Farm Bureau convention in Louisiana on Monday. Federal mortgage and farm help functions have additionally been delayed.

To fill the void on knowledge, merchants and farmers are counting on personal crop forecasters, satellite tv for pc imagery companies and brokerages providing analyses on commerce and provides. Some have been scouring Twitter for tidbits on shifting climate patterns and rumors of grain exports, however say it’s tough to interchange the USDA.

“We’re simply doing one of the best we are able to, searching for as a lot info as is obtainable,” stated Brian Basting, economist for Illinois-based dealer Advance Buying and selling, which supplies prospects its personal harvest and crop provide estimates.

Dan Henebry, an Illinois corn and soy farmer, stated the absence of USDA knowledge was tough.

“You delay all these experiences and the market has no concept the place to go, aside from commerce guesses,” Henebry stated.


Gro Intelligence has been providing free entry to its knowledge platform since Dec. 27, and launched worldwide supply-demand crop forecasts on Friday.

The corporate’s estimates for the U.S. 2018-2019 corn crop yield have been 177.four bushels per acre, beneath each USDA’s final forecast and decrease than the common of estimates in a Reuters survey. Gro pegged the U.S. 2018-2019 soybean yield at 50.6 bushels per acre, additionally beneath USDA and beneath the vary of Reuters’ survey.

The corporate will preserve its platform open at some point of the shutdown, Menker stated.

Up to now, Menker stated, the positioning has signed up executives from the highest 10 international agribusiness firms and monetary establishments with credit score publicity to U.S. agriculture.

Information agency Mercaris has gained new subscribers too, because it has turn into the one supply for natural commodity costs for the reason that halt in USDA experiences, gross sales director Alex Heilman stated. The Maryland-based firm is making an extra pricing report accessible to customers at no cost till the federal company reopens.

“All people nonetheless wants this info for creating contracts, new product strains, planting acres,” Heilman stated.

Farmers Enterprise Community (FBN), which collects harvest knowledge from 7,000 U.S. farmers, was set to launch crop yield estimates on Friday to members. The information isn’t as complete because the USDA’s report would have been, although, stated Kevin McNew, FBN’s chief economist.

“On the finish of the day, we nonetheless want a benchmark,” McNew stated. “For higher or worse, USDA is one of the best benchmark we’ve got.”

Buying and selling quantity in Chicago Board of Commerce grain futures sometimes jumps on the day in mid-January when the USDA releases its main experiences. However with out the experiences on Friday, quantity fell in probably the most actively traded corn and soy contracts, and rose much less in wheat futures than it sometimes does when USDA points its knowledge, in line with preliminary knowledge from CBOT proprietor CME Group Inc.

Whereas crops are usually not rising in North America in the course of the winter season, merchants are nonetheless searching for up to date info from South America and different elements of the world the place soy and different crops are rising.

A rise in personal firms utilizing government-collected satellite tv for pc photographs to trace farmed fields lately helps shine a light-weight on international crop circumstances even whereas authorities businesses are darkish. The federal government’s Landsat satellites proceed to gather photographs of the earth and different knowledge.

Non-public firms akin to New Mexico-based crop forecaster Descartes Labs can nonetheless entry the open-sourced knowledge and analyze it. The general public can usually see these photographs on the U.S. Geological Survey’s web site, however it isn’t being up to date in the course of the shutdown, in line with a discover on the positioning.

And all know-how may be problematic, stated Steve Truitt, authorities program supervisor for Descartes.

Information often has proven up late in the course of the shutdown, or not arrived, Truitt stated. The USDA and Inside Division staffers who Descartes normally calls both can’t be reached or are working with out pay, he stated, resulting in awkward conversations.

(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Further reporting by Julie Ingwersen and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; Enhancing by Caroline Stauffer and Matthew Lewis)

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