U.S. shutdown sends grain merchants, farmers trying 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 conflict with China that has slowed U.S. exports.

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

“It has been loopy busy,” stated Sara Menker, chief government 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 tackle on the American Farm Bureau convention in Louisiana on Monday. Federal mortgage and farm help purposes have additionally been delayed.

To fill the void on knowledge, merchants and farmers are counting on non-public crop forecasters, satellite tv for pc imagery corporations 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 troublesome to exchange the USDA.

“We’re simply doing the perfect we will, searching for as a lot data as is on the market,” stated Brian Basting, economist for Illinois-based dealer Advance Buying and selling, which supplies clients its personal harvest and crop provide estimates.

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

“You delay all these experiences and the market has no thought 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 typical 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 hold its platform open throughout the shutdown, Menker stated.

To date, Menker stated, the positioning has signed up executives from the highest 10 world agribusiness corporations and monetary establishments with credit score publicity to U.S. agriculture.

Knowledge agency Mercaris has gained new subscribers too, because it has turn out to be 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 without spending a dime till the federal company reopens.

“Everyone nonetheless wants this data 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 info just 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 the perfect 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, based on preliminary knowledge from CBOT proprietor CME Group Inc.

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

A rise in non-public corporations utilizing government-collected satellite tv for pc photos to trace farmed fields lately helps shine a light-weight on world crop situations even whereas authorities companies are darkish. The federal government’s Landsat satellites proceed to gather photos of the earth and different knowledge.

Non-public corporations 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 photos on the U.S. Geological Survey’s web site, however it isn’t being up to date through the shutdown, based on a discover on the positioning.

And all expertise could be problematic, stated Steve Truitt, authorities program supervisor for Descartes.

Knowledge often has proven up late through the shutdown, or not arrived, Truitt stated. The USDA and Inside Division staffers who Descartes often 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; Extra reporting by Julie Ingwersen and Mark Weinraub in Chicago; Enhancing by Caroline Stauffer and Matthew Lewis)

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