The U.S. government shutdown has thwarted the formulation of the monthly USDA crop production report, sidelining the Department of Agriculture’s corps of enumerators and almost certainly delaying the report due for release on Oct. 11.
Creation of the report, which affects prices of grains and other agricultural commodities around the world, starts at the farm level with two full weeks devoted to surveying growers and inspecting crops in thousands of fields.
The shutdown, now into its fourth day, comes smack in the middle of that process.
No decision on rescheduling will be made until the government is back at work, a USDA spokesman said hours before the shutdown began on Tuesday.
But analysts said USDA faces knotty decisions on how to proceed with the report whenever the shutdown ends. In the meantime, analysts point to the rising risk traders face as they operate without the government data they rely on for price direction.
USDA officials said privately they would have to consider a new release date if the shutdown lasted more than two days, because there is little leeway to absorb lost work time.
“It’s a tight schedule,” said one official. The crop report normally is released three or four days after data collection ends, not counting weekends.
A lengthy shutdown could erode the value of the field data USDA already has in hand or make it difficult to reconcile it with information gathered later, especially with the fall harvest powering ahead. If USDA is off-line until mid-month, there could be a debate whether to issue an October report at all.