| WASHINGTON, Sept 30
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 The U.S. Agriculture
Department will shut off its gusher of statistical reports in
the event of a federal government shutdown, leaving traders and
food producers in the dark about most activities in the world's
largest farm exporter.
But inspections of meat are considered among essential
services that will continue even if most workers are idled.
If the shutdown lasts more than two or three days, USDA may
be forced to delay the release of its monthly crop estimates,
due on Oct. 11, which often cause swings worth billions of
dollars in the price of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.
"We are going to miss the October crop report, if they shut
down too long," said Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co. "If
you don't have the October crop report, that's really the big
USDA also reports large export sales - 100,000 tons or more
of corn, soybeans or wheat to a single destination in one day -
that often move markets. On Sept. 18 the agency reported 1.93
million tons of soybeans to China, the fifth-largest daily sale
Also suspended would be dozens of lesser-known reports that
provide a daily or weekly foundation for tracking crops,
livestock and the farm sector - from cattle auctions in
Amarillo, Texas, to dry edible bean prices in Wyoming.
The department's public face, the usda.gov Website, will "go
dark" and be linked to an informational page in the event of a
shutdown, allowing no access to USDA data banks, a spokeswoman
said on Monday.
"Timely updates to the Website will stop, thus valuable
electronic reports and material will not be available to
agricultural community and the agriculture and consumer
publics," said an outline of USDA's plans.
As one example, USDA planned to report on Monday on its
last-gasp efforts to whittle down a mammoth sugar surplus.
Processors could default on half a million tons of sugar loans
backed by USDA on Tuesday but the forfeitures would not be
reported until the government was back at work.
A portion of USDA's 100,000 employees would remain on the
job. Meat and poultry inspectors, the subject of a funding fight
after automatic budget cuts endangered their work early this
year, are designated as essential personnel.
Without them, the meatpacking industry would have to shut
down because, by law, it cannot operate without USDA inspectors
to assure safety.
Grain inspectors generally would also remain at work, in
their case because budgets are funded by user fees.
USDA's economics and statistical wing said "market news
reports, NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service)
statistics and other agricultural economic and statistical
reports and projections will be discontinued."
"NASS will not issue any reports on days the government is
shut down. We would assess the timing of any affected report
releases after the government shutdown ends," a USDA spokesman
The Economic Research Service, which provides analysis and
forecasts, would be shuttered and its public Website would be
taken offline, said USDA. Agricultural research stations also
would close, and reports from USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service
attaches around the world would be suspended.
The closely watched U.S. crop report, issued in tandem with
projections of U.S. and global supply and demand estimates, is
released a few days after USDA personnel complete surveys of
growers and field inspections.