Release major ag reports at mid-morning, says poll by USDA

Fri Aug 3, 2012 6:47pm EDT

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* One-third of 147 responses favor mid-morning

* Three dozen want early morning, 44 back afternoon

* USDA mulls change now that markets trade around the clock

* Last change in USDA release times was 1994

WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. government should issue its crop report and other market-moving agricultural data at mid-morning when the futures markets run at full volume, said traders, agribusinesses and farmers in comments that may prompt a change in release times.

At present, the reports are released either in the early morning or at mid-afternoon, when the markets traditionally were closed. But the major futures exchanges now are open nearly all-day, so the U.S. Department Of Agriculture is mulling whether to adjust its timing.

One-third of the 147 respondents to a USDA request for public comment -- mainly large trading houses, farm groups and the owner of the Chicago Board of Trade -- favored a mid-morning release, according to a Reuters review of comments. The most commonly mentioned time was 11 a.m., listed by 28 respondents.

Three dozen responses called for an early morning release with 15 of them wanting to keep the current release time of 8:30 a.m. ET. Some 44 responses, often from farmers and agribusinesses, said USDA should release its major reports after 3 p.m.

USDA posted the comments on Friday at bit.ly/FedRegComments .

"No decision has been made," said a USDA spokesman when asked if USDA would change its release times nor was there a target date to reach one. There was speculation outside USDA that any change would not be made before January.

Grain trader ABN AMRO backed an 11 a.m. release because market liquidity would be greatest with electronic and floor trading open -- "Makes sense to have all pistons firing when news hits the market rather than just a few."

CME Group Inc, owner of the Chicago exchanges, supported an 11 a.m. release, as did the trade group Commodity Markets Council and an array of farm groups including the 6 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation.

The farm groups and the National Grain and Feed Association said USDA should issue a one-page summary of salient information, so everyone had equal access to key data at the same time, and should try to get markets to halt trading for an hour when the reports come out.

Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc said the current 8:30 a.m. release was fairest for U.S., European and Asian businesses and "allows Cargill risk managers a full day to work with our farm and end-user customers to manage the report risk."

"Moving the release times to later in the U.S. day would result in a middle-of-the-night release for most of the world," said Cargill, which suggested a pause in trading so the information could reach all market participants.

Poultry processor Perdue Farms supported 3 p.m. as the best time for USDA to release its data. "The grain markets are closed, which will allow an orderly review of the data prior to trading on the new data," it said.

USDA asked for comments on the best time to release nine reports -- the monthly crop report and companion report on crop output worldwide, the monthly Cattle on Feed report, the quarterly Grains Stocks and Hogs and Pigs reports, and the periodic cattle inventory, Prospective Plantings, Acreage and Small Grains Summary reports.

The last major change in UDSA's report schedule was on May 10, 1994, when USDA switched to early-morning release for the U.S. and world crop forecasts, formerly released at mid-afternoon. The change, sought by market participants, put U.S. exchanges first in line to trade on the data.

(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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