WASHINGTON The government asked farmers, traders and futures exchanges on Thursday for ideas on when it should release potentially market-moving agricultural reports, such as crop forecasts, now that commodity markets are open nearly all day.
It could result in the first change in the Department of Agriculture reports in nearly two decades and lead to the release of USDA data while futures trading was at full volume.
"With nearly around-the-clock commodities trading in the United States now underway, the agencies want to hear from all parties who use federal agricultural statistics so that we can best meet their needs while upholding our responsibility to provide equal access to data," said two USDA agencies in a Federal Register notice.
They asked for public comment on five questions, including "What is your preferred time of day ... for report release?" and "Why is this time preferred?" as well who would be adversely affected by changing the time of release for the reports.
The notice was scheduled to appear on Friday to open a 30-day comment period. Allowing for time to review comments, USDA may be two or three months away from a decision on release times.
USDA traditionally published most of its reports in the early morning or in mid-to-late afternoon when exchanges were closed. But the trend-setting Chicago Board of Trade adopted a 21-hour trading day in May to offset the 22-hour day inaugurated by the rival InterContinental Exchange.
There were informal suggestions the USDA reports should be released at mid-morning in the United States, when trading is briskest at the Chicago exchanges as a way to minimize volatility.
USDA asked for comment on nine reports -- the monthly Crop Production, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, and Cattle on Feed reports; the quarterly Grain Stocks and Hogs and Pigs reports, and the periodic Cattle, Prospective Plantings, Acreage and Small Grains Summary reports.
The last major change in USDA's report schedule was on May 10, 1994, when USDA switched to early-morning release of the and world crop forecasts, formerly released at mid-afternoon. The change, sought by market participants, put exchanges first in line to trade on the data. The reports are prepared in a "lock-up" that begins before midnight to assure confidentiality.
(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Marguerita Choy)