Exclusive: Key U.S. crop reports may still be issued if government shutdown ends - USDA

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture will decide on Friday whether to delay a slew of key crop reports scheduled for release on Jan. 11, USDA chief economist Robert Johansson told Reuters on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Meagan Kaiser shows off a Soybean plant around 45-days before harvest on her farm near Norborne, Missouri, U.S., August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

The agency had previously said the reports could be suspended in light of the partial U.S. government shutdown, worrying grain traders who rely on the data. The shutdown, which entered its 12th day on Wednesday, has already prompted the USDA to suspend daily and weekly export sales reports.

The USDA's monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report is regarded by traders as the gold standard for crop forecasts. Its release, on or around the 10th of each month, often roils Chicago Board of Trade grain and soy futures Wc1Cc1Sc1 and sets price direction.

Data in the upcoming WASDE report will reflect the USDA’s view on the projected size of U.S. soybean stockpiles following a record-large harvest and a trade war with top global soy buyer China that has slowed U.S. exports.

The report will include the USDA’s latest fix on everything from corn and soy production in Brazil and Argentina, both key exporters, to wheat projected wheat exports from top suppliers such as Russia, the European Union, Argentina and Australia.

The January WASDE report coincides with the release from USDA of several other potential market-movers, including a quarterly report on U.S. grain stocks, a final U.S. crop production report for 2018 and USDA’s report on winter wheat seedings for harvest in 2019.

“Right now, we’ve still got time to get them done, if we get funding restored. We are still hoping for that,” Johansson said in an interview.

The USDA is one of several federal departments affected by the shutdown. If the government is still shut down on Friday, the USDA would delay the reports, Johansson said.

“It takes us a bit of time to put them together. So even if we get funding next week ... we will still need to have a little bit of time to pull together the analysis to put those reports together and get them out,” Johansson said.

The reports would be released at a later date, he said, depending on how soon the USDA’s staff returns to work.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis