* Crop report is most prominent casualty among U.S. reports
* First time since 1866 that USDA will skip a report
* Two-month gap in crop estimates as harvest booms along
* "Twice the chances" for a shock in November report
(Adds background, delay of CFTC reports, quotes)
By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, Oct 17 The U.S. government canceled
its monthly report on grain and cotton production on Thursday
for the first time since reporting began in 1866 and said it
will not estimate U.S. or world crop production until early
Cancellation of the October report means the first
harvest-time estimate of U.S. crops will be Nov. 8. The
production report and companion data on crops worldwide are the
U.S. Agriculture Department's premiere reports.
They attract a worldwide audience and frequently move
commodity prices - and with the gap of an additional month,
potentially more so than usual.
The widely followed USDA reports were the biggest immediate
casualties of the 17-day government shutdown. Officials were
also deciding on Thursday whether to issue an overdue report on
the U.S. inflation rate.
"It's a great shame. We lose the continuity of the series,
the course correction that it provides," said Bill Nelson,
analyst with Doane Advisory Services in St. Louis.
With the cancellation, the November report will be USDA's
first harvest-time estimate of U.S. crops. By November, the corn
and soybean harvests are usually in the final stretch and cotton
is half harvested.
Users of corn and soybeans - from food companies to
exporters - will be counting every bushel to determine if
supplies recover after three years of declining production. As a
result, markets have been highly sensitive to the USDA
"There is always the potential for a shock in each monthly
report so I'd suggest there are twice the chances that we'll get
a shock this time, or that the shock will be twice what it
ordinarily would be," said a futures broker.
USDA's previous crop estimate was issued on Sept 12. It
also on Thursday canceled or postponed a range of reports
because it could not gather data during the shutdown due to lack
GOOD TO BE BACK
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack greeted employees as they
returned to the USDA complex on the national Mall. "Good to have
you back," he said repeatedly, shaking hands with workers.
"We have never missed a report in the past," said a USDA
spokesman, who said the cancellation of the crop report was "the
first time ever."
USDA began crop reports in 1866, covering cotton and
tobacco, a year after the end of the American Civil War.
The last time USDA delayed its premiere reports was
September 2001, when they were held up for two days in the wake
of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Besides the crop report and the companion World Agricultural
Supply and Demand Estimates report, USDA said it canceled two
weekly reports on crop conditions. It said a monthly Cattle on
Feed report, due on Friday, would be postponed, along with a
report on peanut prices.
"NASS is assessing its data collection plans and evaluating
the timing of upcoming reports," USDA said of its National
Agricultural Statistics Service.
Officials also met to decide what to do about USDA's weekly
report of grain, soybean, cotton and meat exports, an important
indicator of activity for the world's largest agricultural
During the shutdown traders got export news in dribs and
drabs - for example, Reuters reported overnight that China has
bought close to 1.2 million tonnes of U.S. corn this month - but
are anxious for a complete accounting.
"Some of the exports and the news we were hearing was more
speculation and so we will actually be able to put some facts
with it. The longer the government was gone, the more out of
whack things got," said Jason Britt, president of Central States
For the November crop report, USDA will run its usual survey
of more than 10,000 growers and send crop enumerators to check
yields at hundreds of fields that were selected for monthly
inspections. USDA's crop estimates, issued around the 10th of
each month, are based on conditions on the first of the month.
Its November forecasts have a margin of error of 2.1 percent
for corn and 2.3 percent for soybeans. By comparison, the
September report had an error margin of 8.5 percent for the corn
crop and 9.6 percent for soybeans.
Market participants will have to wait a bit longer for the
Commitments of Traders report from the Commodity Futures Trading
Commission, typically due each Friday.
CFTC, the U.S. futures industry watchdog, said it will not
have time to put this week's report together. The report shows
the holdings of various participants in U.S. futures markets and
are used to infer potential price trends.
(Reporting by Charles Abbott,; Editing by Ros Krasny, Gerald E.
McCormick, Jim Marshall, David Gregorio and Bob Burgdorfer)