Corn Soy Wheat market graphic

Grain traders are breathing a sigh of relief now that the federal government is open, at least temporarily. But they started the week unsure about when they might start seeing new USDA reports.

Until those delayed data reports start coming out, farmers and traders alike will be using a lot of guesswork when it comes to important statistics, such as crop size, exports and usage.

“That’s the big question (as of the start of the week),” said Mick Hoover, risk management team leader at Maxyield Cooperative in West Bend, Iowa. “When will we see that USDA report?”

The key release he is talking about is the year-end crop report for the 2018 crop, which was originally due on Jan. 11. The USDA will release the report on Feb. 8.

Of course, there are other reports and basic statistical information that have been unavailable during the shutdown. For example, the United States and China are in the midst of their 90-day truce in a very big trade war, and official reports about exports to China have been unavailable.

“There’s been a lot of speculation about what really took place (in regards to shipments to China in recent weeks),” Hoover said.

Another item that is not directly market-related but which is important to farmers is the fact that many USDA offices have been closed and some payments to farmers were delayed, although the USDA found a way to circumvent the shutdown to open some offices temporarily and to mail out payments. Those moves were welcomed by farmers, though some analysts questioned how the USDA got permission to make those moves at a time when non-essential employees were not supposed to be working.

And there is still concern the government could shut down again in mid-February, when the three-week truce in the budget war ends. The hope, analysts say, is that some kind of agreement on border security could be reached before that time.

Meanwhile, the best advice Hoover and many other analysts can give is to continue selling into rallies and to pay attention to the fundamentals of the market. Generally speaking, those fundamentals aren’t very good, although they are better for corn than for soybeans, Hoover said.

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.