The National Agricultural Statistics Service and the World Agricultural Outlook Board, both under the umbrella of the USDA, are considering a public comment period on the release times of several major statistical reports.
Current release times at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET coincide loosely with market open and close, but recent changes to trading hours have disrupted that relationship.
Though the USDA hasn't released any information on probable new release times, Scott Irwin, Laurence J. Norton chair of agricultural marketing at the University of Illinois FarmDoc program, said changing the release times will have little effect on traders and the markets.
"There is no evidence that the markets systematically react inefficiently to the USDA reports, in fact there is voluminous evidence in just the opposite," he said. "The reaction in real time would have to come from some other source besides problems with the current system."
Irwin speculates that the other source would likely be a slow internet connection or heavy traffic on USDA servers, and though there is some concern about market volatility, he thinks overall the report release times have more to do with access to information than timeliness.
"One of the premises of USDA system is that their information levels the playing field," Irwin said. "In order for the playing field to remain level, everyone must be able to download the report and look at it within a very short time frame."
Irwin said the biggest hurdle may be for producers that have poor internet access and frequently trade. He called this a "flying-blind" problem, and said that may create some market volatility because people don't have the information they need.
For now, only a possible USDA comment period will determine when and if report release times will change.
"At least from an economic standpoint, there is no reason to expect large problems," Irwin said.
New release times could affect the following reports: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, Acreage, Cattle, Cattle on Feed, Crop Production, Grain Stocks, Prospective Plantings, Quarterly Hogs and Pigs, and Small Grain Summary.
The next major report due out is the crop report on June 12.