WASHINGTON (B)--A United States Department of Agriculture spokeswoman admitted Oct. 12 "procedural errors on the part of the Foreign Agricultural Service" allowed the release Oct. 11 of critical world agricultural production and trade numbers before the monthly World Supply and Demand Estimates report.

"USDA takes premature release of information seriously and is taking action to safeguard information," the spokeswoman said.

USDA's Inspector General also is spearheading an investigation of the early release of crucial corn, cotton and soybean production data for places as varied as China, Brazil and Pakistan.

USDA investigators seized copies of the report from reporters early Oct. 12 and, according to one source, statements were being taken from USDA employees.

"Basically, we made a mistake," said FAS Communications Director Maureen Quinn. "We need to work on putting some extra safeguards in place to make sure this does not happen again."

Those safeguards involve a new set of written instructions for many of the hundreds of reports that FAS releases each month.

Quinn said the World Agricultural Production report is finalized in conjunction with the World Agricultural Outlook Board during the late-night and early-morning "lock-up" sessions the day prior to the release of the WASDE--World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate--report.

However, given all of the statistics that FAS publishes, Quinn said she cannot ever remember the agency prematurely releasing such a sensitive document.

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