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Shutdown Likely to Delay Premiere USDA Reports

Barring a breakthrough between the White House and Congress, the partial government shutdown will force USDA to delay next week's release of potentially market-moving reports that take a final look at the 2018 crops and provide the first hints, based on a survey of growers, of this year's production. USDA officials are expected to meet on Thursday to discuss a timeline for the reports.

"If the shutdown lasts past January 4, they will be delayed," said a USDA spokesman.

At issue are the year-opening set of reports that estimate winter wheat seedings, a key indicator for projecting three-quarters of U.S. wheat output; the stockpiles of the leading U.S. grains crops and worldwide demand for them; and an annual Crop Production report that often is the definitive word on the fall harvest. In 2018, growers reaped the largest U.S. soybean crop ever and the second-largest corn crop on record.

USDA statisticians and economists need four or five days to assemble the material that goes into the reports, which are released after a high-security "lock up" in USDA's South Building near the national Mall. As a practical matter, a lingering shutdown would interfere with production of the reports, now scheduled for release on January 11. Most USDA employees are furloughed because funding for most USDA activities expired last month.

Four of the reports set for January 11 are listed among the three dozen "principal federal economic indicators," which include the monthly unemployment and inflation reports by the Labor Department and monthly Commerce Department report on gross domestic product.

The only time that USDA has canceled its monthly Crop Production report was in October 2013, at the end of a 17-day shutdown. Monthly crop reporting began in 1866. The crop report has been delayed occasionally due to severe snowstorms in Washington. Release of the crop report and the companion WASDE report were delayed by two days in September 2001 because of the September 11 terror attacks.

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