USDA expects record crop for corn producers

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, November 11, 2013

Farmers will harvest a record 13.989 billion bushels of corn this year, the Agriculture Department said today in a highly anticipated crop report.

The record number comes even as the department lowered its projections for the number of acres harvested in the country by 1.9 million. The loss is more than offset by an increase in forecasted yield per acre, USDA said.

On average, farmers will harvest 160.4 bushels of corn per acre, the most since the 2009-2010 growing season, USDA said.

Each month, the “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” report is used in the commodities market to set prices for corn and soybeans and includes estimates of how much corn different activities, such as ethanol production, will require this year.

This month’s report is especially significant because it contains actual data from the harvest rather than relying on surveys and modeling. It’s also the first since USDA’s September crop projections. The agency canceled last month’s report because the National Agricultural Statistics Service was not able to perform the necessary data collection and analysis during the 16-day government shutdown (Greenwire, Oct. 18).

The numbers show that the crop has largely recovered after last year’s drought, despite a late planting due to heavy rainfall in corn-producing regions and dryness in corn states throughout July and August. Cooler-than-normal summer temperatures and an extended growing season mean most farmers will have higher yields than they first expected.

Ending corn stocks at the end of the year are expected to be 1.887 billion bushels, 32 million bushels more than the department’s last projection.

Last year, U.S. corn growers produced 10.8 billion bushels, 13 percent below the 2011 crop, largely because of the drought in the nation’s major corn-producing regions, according to the Agriculture Department. Average corn yield was 123.4 bushels per acre, down from a 147.2 bushel-per-acre yield in 2011, and the price of corn hovered in the $7- and $8-a-bushel range, forcing many ethanol plants to idle production and raise the price of feed for livestock producers.

With the larger projected corn crop, USDA today lowered this year’s projected price for corn by 30 cents to between $4.10 and $4.90 a bushel.

Earlier this week, commodity market analyst Genscape pegged this year’s corn crop at 13.57 billion bushels using satellite data from NASA. The company warned that USDA’s report might not by wholly accurate because the government shutdown meant it could not obtain objective yield samples during the first two weeks of October.

The soybean harvest is expected to reach 3.258 billion bushels, up 109 million from the department’s September projection. As in corn production, a reduction in the amount of acres harvested is expected to be offset by higher-than-expected yields. Soybean producers are projected to harvest 43 bushels of soybeans per acre.