USDA crop reports disappoint traders

View of a corncob in a maize plantation


JEREMY HOBSON: Today in Chicago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture holds an annual meeting with traders who rely on the agency's crop reports. And some of those traders aren't too pleased with the accuracy of the reports they've been getting lately. Marketplace's Eve Troeh explains.

EVE TROEH: In September, the USDA said we'd drown in corn this year. This month, it said, "Oops. The harvest won't be so big."

DARIN NEWSOM: The largest on-record decrease. Really almost incomprehensible move from September to October, really without much cause.

Agriculture analyst Darin Newsom says the price of corn jumped after that dismal report. Now investors want more reliable numbers from the USDA. But Newsom doubts the agency can deliver.

NEWSOM: USDA says look we were never intended to be a driving force in the market, we were there to provide an objective view.

Corn's become a hot commodity. But the market is volatile. And he says stodgy government reports are part of the problem.

NEWSOM: We're talking about so much more money than we used to that the information has to be available right then. It can't be found faulty, or at least to this degree.

So Newsom says firms that track crops will start building their own tools. I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.


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