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USDA’s Monthly Farm Report Arrives Late, Leaving Market Fuming

Tina Davis and Isis Almeida

(Bloomberg) -- People trying to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report for November were met with frustration Friday.

“USDA.GOV sites are temporarily down for maintenance,” according to a notice posted on the site. “We are performing scheduled maintenance. We should be back online shortly.”

It was a tricky time for scheduled maintenance, if that’s what actually happened, given that most of the agricultural trading community relies on these monthly figures for data on how much corn and soy and other crops are coming to the market. Last year, the department ended so-called lock-ups for the monthly report -- in which reporters got access to the data ahead of time but under embargo -- saying that posting the information online offered a fairer way to distribute the information.

But for about six minutes on Friday, the USDA website wasn’t offering any information. Corn prices moved higher as the market awaited the data. The market eventually pared gains after traders digested the delayed figures.

“That is very annoying, it’s bad,” said Pierre Tronc, a broker at BGC Partners in Geneva. “Look how wheat was up, or corn, and nothing came out when we had a chance to see what was inside the report.”

The department didn’t respond to a request for comment. A tweet from the USDA announcing the release of the report at noon was pulled down. When the information was eventually posted, corn, soy and cotton markets moved in response.

On Twitter, Lance Honig, branch chief for crops at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, said that staff at the agency were “actively investigating the cause of the issues and working to resolve them.” He signed the tweet from the agency’s handle with his initials.

(Adds comments from USDA’s NASS in last paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Tina Davis in New York at tinadavis@bloomberg.net;Isis Almeida in Chicago at ialmeida3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net, Millie Munshi, Patrick McKiernan

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