When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a slew of key farm reports would not be released on Friday due to the partial government shutdown, the phones at crop forecaster Gro Intelligence blew up.
The USDA was set to release its views on the projected size of U.S. soybean stockpiles, among other data, following a record-large domestic harvest and a trade war with China that has slowed U.S. exports.
Commodity traders, economists, grain merchants and farmers are anxious for crop updates as they work to project their financial balance sheets and make spring planting decisions.
“It’s been crazy busy,” said Sara Menker, chief executive of New York-based Gro Intelligence.
The shutdown, now in its third week, has rippled across the already struggling U.S. farm economy ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned address at the American Farm Bureau conference in Louisiana on Monday. Federal loan and farm aid applications have also been delayed.
To fill the void on data, traders and farmers are relying on private crop forecasters, satellite imagery firms and brokerages offering analyses on trade and supplies. Some have been scouring Twitter for tidbits on shifting weather patterns and rumors of grain exports, but say it is difficult to replace the USDA.
“We’re just doing the best we can, looking for as much information as is available,” said Brian Basting, economist for Illinois-based broker Advance Trading, which provides customers its own harvest and crop supply estimates.
“Everyone’s got their own internal numbers but the USDA is the most comprehensive data source.”
Dan Henebry, an Illinois corn and soy farmer, said the absence of USDA data was difficult.
“You delay all these reports and the market has no idea where to go, other than trade guesses,” Henebry said.