USDA services impacted by federal government shutdown

01 October 2013 23:27  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--With its websites offline and the shuttering of its crop and trade data reports, the federal government crippled the efforts of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday.

With harvest of a closely watched corn and soybeans underway and the upcoming World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report for October soon to be released, the timing of the mandated closures is causing concern among agricultural markets and traders of the commodities.

Set for release 11 October, the next WASDE report is anticipated to see whether the agency would change yield numbers once again. The monthly report has big impacts on the commodity markets, especially in events of dramatic increases or decrease in production figures.

As of now, the primary research and reporting division of the USDA, which includes National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and market news reports, will be discontinued the agency said in its shutdown plans.

Charged with providing analysis and forecasts, the Economic Research Service efforts have been halted along with work at the USDA research stations.

Another area of reports that will be severely impacted is the USDA export sales reports as the agency keeps daily track of movement  in volumes of 100,000 tons or excess for the crop commodities. These statistics are watched by the industry and traders and have caused market movements in response to activity.

The Farm Service Agency, which is the main point of contact between the USDA and US farmers, is also closing its doors.

Currently, the USDA website is offline and users are directed to a directional page linking one to information from the White House on the shutdown. Users are not able to access a variety of electronic reports and data until the agency is back operational.

USDA services that remain operating include meat and poultry inspectors as they were designated as essential personnel. Grain inspectors, especially vital at this time of year, are also still working as they are paid from users fees not federal funds.

In addition, the agency said operations that include dairy grading, cotton classing and grading, tobacco inspections and specialty crop inspections would continue as their funding does not come from federal appropriations. The agency has said food stamps would not be impacted either.

The agency said an unspecified portion of its 100,000 employees would remain on the job. According to the shutdown plans legal counsels work with senior agency managers to determine which employees are designated to handle “excepted and non-excepted functions”. The USDA said that employees were working on Tuesday but just for the purpose of handling the shutdown activities as previously planned.


By: Mark Milam



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