USDA will ask public input on ag report release times

WASHINGTON Tue May 22, 2012 11:00pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department will seek public input before it decides whether to change the release times of market-moving reports on farm data now that futures markets are open nearly around the clock, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday.

"This is a complicated issue," Vilsack told a telephone news conference, adding the department wanted to assure equitable release of information for all market participants.

While some traders would prefer USDA to release major reports while markets are closed, others want to capture the instantaneous surges in trading that would accompany a "live" release of significant information.

"We're in the process of analyzing the pros and cons of a variety of different ways to approach this," Vilsack said.

"And I think whatever decision is ultimately made, we will structure it in such a way that I'm sure we will provide people an opportunity in some manner to provide their reaction to what it is we're doing or considering so that whatever we ultimately decide to do on a permanent basis will be the best decision for all concerned."

USDA reports are mostly released in the early morning or late afternoon, when futures markets are closed or volume is low.

The CME Group Inc (CME.O), owner of the long-established and market-leading Chicago Board of Trade, launched a 21-hour trading day on Sunday after the upstart InterContinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N) began a 22-hour trade day for grains and soybean futures on May 14.

Vilsack said the different trading hours for ICE and CBOT were a factor in USDA's review.

The first major USDA report to be released "live" during the new trading hours could be the monthly crop report due on June 12.

Financial markets are open as a matter of routine when key energy data is released. Some commodity traders say USDA's crop report and a companion report on crop production, usage and trade around the world cover a broader swath and require more time to digest.

In 1994, USDA switched to early morning release of the U.S. and world crop forecasts, putting U.S. markets first in line to trade on the data.

(This version of the story corrects the headline and first paragraph and the replaces second sentence from fourth paragraph with quote in fifth paragraph to clarify when USDA would seek public input)

(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Jim Marshall and John Mair)

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