Market Matters Blog

Shutdown Causes Uncertainty Over October 11 Reports

There was a lot of uncertainty in the halls of USDA yesterday. When I left the press lock up room after that bearish Quarterly Stocks report, no one knew when they'd be coming to work again. No one knew if there would be an October WASDE and Crop Production report or not. Generally, people were cranky and on edge.

USDA employees are in the dark about what will happen if this shutdown lasts longer than a few days. The personal stress was clear; the professional anxiety pervasive. This is a fun time of year for NASS's statisticians because there's a raft of harvest data for them to sort through and quantify into something that's meaningful for the market.

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But the lab has gone idle, and the data collection for the October reports won't resume until the government is up and running again, my sources tell me. Typically, USDA begins this work on the first of the month.

If this shutdown lasts much longer than a week or so, NASS's information gathering activities could be so significantly delayed that NASS could push back the date of the next report, one source told me. The hitch is that law requires the WASDE and Crop Production to be released between the 9th and 12th of the month.

Will there be a report next week or not? It all comes down to whether or not Congress can come to a deal to fund the government and if they can do it with enough time for USDA to do its research.

Speaking of research, USDA's websites have gone dark -- so much for using NASS's Quick Stats site for adding context to my stories.

Economists expect the economic impact of this shutdown to shave 0.15 percentage points off GDP each week it lasts. While that's not a huge figure, some GDP estimates for the third quarter already show a slowing economy, and if we shave 0.7 percent from GDP (a shutdown lasting one month), there's no denying it will take a toll. If a shutdown lasts that long, the country will run up against the debt ceiling -- and if we don't raise that, it could have a devastating impact on our country's bond rating. Outside market upheaval will likely carryover into grains.

Until Congress ends the government shut down, many farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses won't have access to crucial market information that they use every day. USDA simply stopped issuing it. The best thing farmers can do to change that is to let their Congressmen know how the shutdown is affecting their ability to do business.

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