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By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - A network outage at a Kansas City, Missouri, site that transmits market-sensitive U.S. crop data likely caused a delay in the release of monthly reports on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
The agency did not publish estimates on the size of the U.S. corn and soy harvests and other crop data until several minutes after they were due at noon Eastern, frustrating farmers and traders waiting on the information.
The USDA’s monthly reports are regarded by traders as the gold standard for global crop forecasts. Their release can jolt Chicago Board of Trade grain and soy futures and set price direction for crops used to produce food, biofuels and livestock.
A notice on USDA websites during Friday’s delay said the pages that publish crop reports were temporarily down for scheduled maintenance.
However, the agency later said “the delay appears to have resulted from a local area network outage at the Kansas City, Missouri, site where the reports are transmitted for public release.”
The USDA relocated its Economic Research Service to Kansas City, from Washington, D.C., this year, and said the move would not delay closely watched monthly crop reports.
The agency is conducting a “root cause analysis” to determine the specific cause of the problem and minimize the chances that it happens again, it said in a statement.
Farmers were already fed up with the USDA prior to Friday’s delay. Some think the agency has been overstating the size of the corn crop, keeping grain prices low, after rains and historic flooding delayed plantings this spring.
“USDA is coming off with egg on their face,” said Roy Huckabay, analyst at Linn & Associates. “Not only have the reports been bad for the last two years, now they can’t even get them out on time.”
One farmer, enraged by the USDA’s corn crop estimate, threatened an agency employee this summer. The threat of violence prompted USDA to pull all staff from a privately run crop tour that surveys Midwest crops. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)