The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 7, 2013

Shutdown spawns vacuum in farm market information

(Continued)

"I always look forward to that check coming in the mail," the 58-year-old said.

But all of that, farmers say, pales in comparison to the lack of agriculture reports, because farmers today depend far more on global marketplaces than government payouts like in the past.

The reports, for instance, can alert them to shortfalls in overseas markets or if there's a wide swing in acres planted, both of which would prompt U.S. growers to plant extra crops to meet those demands or hang on to a harvest longer to get a better price.

"That information is worth a lot of money, a lot more than $20,000 a year," Peterson said, a reference to his subsidy.

Major commodity players can pay for crop size estimates usually provided in the NASS reports from "private sources," said Dalton Henry, director of governmental affairs for the industry group Kansas Wheat. "Producers aren't going to have that same luxury," he said.

During the shutdown, the USDA won't provide sales reports from Oklahoma livestock auctions that are used to help set prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, state Department of Agriculture employee Jack Carson said.

"We are working. They are not," Carson said.

Another ripple effect is that dairy farmers may see a delay in checks they're owed by the federal milk income loss program, said Wisconsin agriculture secretary Ben Brancel.

Brancel also noted his office heard from a farmer on the first day of the shutdown who'd received a check for a cow he sold, but because he had a Farm Service Agency loan, he couldn't cash it without obtaining a signature from an FSA official.

"Our advice to him was he was going to have to wait, that there wasn't anything he could do about it," he said.

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