UPDATE 1-USDA keeps new mid-day release of crop reports

Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:25pm EST

* USDA wants reports published when markets at full volume

* In past, commodities markets closed when reports issued

By Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The government will stick to its new schedule of releasing major crop reports when the U.S. futures markets are running at full volume, the Agriculture Department said on Wednesday, despite plans for a shorter trading day at the premiere Chicago exchange.

USDA switched to a Noon Eastern time release of its market-moving estimates on Jan. 11 because the futures industry had adopted nearly all-day trading. The reports are produced in "lock ups" protected by armed guards to keep the information confidential.

Chief USDA economist Joe Glauber said the mid-day release was selected after months of consultation with exchanges, farm groups and the agricultural business sector "and we have no further plans to change our current release schedule."

The USDA said its estimates of crop planting, yields, output and usage would be released when market liquidity is greatest and in the middle of the U.S. business day, allowing easy and wide access to the data.

Until now, the department released reports in the early morning, when commodity markets traditionally were closed. The advent of 21- or 23-hour trading in spring 2012 meant the reports were issued when market volume was low and the impact was amplified.

Complaints about early-morning release of reports led to the new schedule of mid-day for the monthly crop report and a companion report on crops worldwide, the quarterly Grain Stocks report, the Prospective Plantings report in March, the Acreage report in June and the Small Grains Summary in September.

The release time came into question following the announcement by CME Group, owner of the Chicago Board of Trade, that it would shorten its 21-hour electronic trading day. Some traders want the USDA reports to be issued while the markets are closed or for trading to stop briefly when USDA issues a major report.

Intercontinental Exchange, the upstart challenger of CME Group, said it will stay open regardless.

Adoption of the mid-day release time was the first change since May 10, 1994, by USDA in its handling of the crop report. That was when it shifted from mid-afternoon release, after the U.S. markets closed, to early morning. The change, sought by market participants, put U.S. exchanges first in line to trade on the information.

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