* USDA plans 30-day comment period on data releases
* Chief economist met with grain leaders
* Crop reports could move to "mid to late morning"-source
By Tom Polansek and Charles Abbott
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON, May 24 The U.S. Department
of Agriculture is considering pushing back the release time for
its market-sensitive crop reports to mid- or late-morning,
during the height of Chicago trade to possibly minimize market
volatility, according to an industry official who met with the
agency on Thursday.
As the USDA considers whether to adjust its reporting
schedule after the CME launched nearly round-the-clock trade
this week, USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber told representatives
of major U.S. agricultural trade groups on Thursday that the
agency would soon open a 30-day comment period to seek public
opinion on such an adjustment.
After the CME announced its plan to move to a continuous
21-hour trading day earlier this month, some traders and farmers
feared the exchange may be stoking volatility and favoring
computer-driven traders by keeping markets open when the USDA
issues many of its key reports at 7:30 a.m. Central (1330 GMT).
Until this week, CME's electronic trading was shut from 7:15
a.m. until floor trade begins at 9:30 a.m.
But that view may now be shifting, with some dealers now
angling for a mid-morning release that would coincide with the
current open-outcry trading session -- a period when liquidity
is at its peak, potentially helping dampen volatility. Trading
volume in the early morning has been negligible this week.
"The impression was they were very amenable to moving it
back to mid- to late-morning," said one attendee, who declined
to be named because the meeting was not public, about the USDA.
The USDA declined to comment on specifics of the meeting.
The meeting, with groups including the American Farm Bureau
Federation, National Corn Growers Association and Commodity
Markets Council, addressed the time of day that crop production,
planting and supply/demand reports should be released.
The department is "trying to get lots of input" from the
agricultural industry after the recent start of nearly
around-the-clock trading, said Dana Peterson, chief executive of
the National Association of Wheat Growers, who attended the
The 30-day comment period will be announced within a few
days, she said, adding that farmers appreciate that USDA is
trying to make a decision in "a deliberate and well planned-out
The change will not occur before the next monthly supply and
demand report on June 12, two attendees said.
CME, owner of the Chicago Board of Trade, increased its
electronic trading day to 21 hours from 17 hours on Monday, a
week after archrival IntercontinentalExchange launched
its own lookalike and near round-the-clock grain and oilseed
Traders are still adjusting to the change. Thursday's weekly
export sales was the first set of USDA data to have an impact on
the market during the new morning trading period, which robs
traders of the two-hour break in which they can review data.
Some have asked USDA to adjust its schedule so crop reports
are issued when markets are closed in the afternoon.
Some CBOT floor options traders said they would like the
USDA to release reports at 10 a.m. CDT.
Open-outcry futures and options pits are currently open from
9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. CDT, although the CME now appears set to
expand the hours for open-outcry dealing so that pits would open
in time for the 7:30 a.m. crop reports.
Traders expected CME on Thursday to seek regulatory approval
to open the pits at 7:20 a.m. The Commodity Futures Trading
Commission did not have a filing from CME listed late on
Thursday, although an exchange spokesman said CME had filed one.
The USDA also will ask the public for comments about
electronic access to its reports, as some farmers and grain
elevators managers are worried they will face a competitive
disadvantage because they have slower Internet connections to
download the data than large traders, meeting attendees said.