Growers say 2018 crops are smaller

Farm Futures survey shows lower corn and soybean production.

Bryce Knorr, Contributing market analyst

January 4, 2019

2 Min Read
aerial view of harvesting wheat

Grain markets could see bullish surprises, if and when USDA releases key reports due in January, according to results of Farm Futures latest survey of growers. Farmers say corn and soybean crops are smaller than the government’s previous estimates. Weather and harvest delays that cut acreage and yields also frustrated plans to increase winter wheat seedings, another report originally set to come out Jan. 11.

It’s still possible USDA could meet that timetable, a decision may be made Jan. 4 on whether to proceed. But without swift settlement of the border wall showdown, USDA statisticians and economists will likely remain on furlough indefinitely.

Farm Futures survey put the 2018 corn crop at 14.423 billion bushels, 203 million less than USDA’s last estimate in November. Growers reported yields of 177.2 bushels per acre, down 1.7 bpa from USDA. Harvested acreage also was down, coming in around 355,000 acres below the government’s previous tally.

USDA is also scheduled to report Dec. 1 grain stocks Jan. 11, which provide key readings on how much corn was fed to livestock during the first quarter of the 2018 crop marketing year. Assuming demand was a little weaker than forecast, the reduction in supply could still knock projected ending stocks down by 90 million bushels, to 1.691 billion.

The reduction in soybeans could also be significant. Growers reported 2018 production of 4.505 billion bushels, 95 million less than USDA’s November estimate. Yields were down a half-bushel per acre to 51.6 bushels per acre, while harvested acreage tumbled nearly a million acres from the government’s last survey.

Projected carryout could drop more than 155 million bushels, thanks to strong crush and prospects for slightly better exports due to renewed purchases by China. Supplies leftover at the end of the 2018 crop marketing year Aug. 31 would still be historically burdensome, but edge below 800 million bushels.

Winter wheat seeding got off to a slow start this fall, and some fields were still not planted when USDA published its last crop progress report for the season at the end of November. Normally delays are associated with increased prevent plant claims and that could be true again for the 2019 crop. Our first survey of planting intentions in August showed farmers ready to boost wheat seedings, and USDA’s first outlook also called for an increase in all wheat acres. But our latest survey showed farmers planted a little less winter wheat than the previous year, around 31.65 million acres, down 2.7% from 2018. Growers of all three major classes reported a drop in acreage.

USDA normally conducts surveys for its January reports in the first two weeks of December. Farm Futures surveyed 620 growers Dec. 7 to Jan. 3. Respondents were invited by email to fill out an on-line questionnaire.

About the Author(s)

Bryce Knorr

Contributing market analyst, Farm Futures

Bryce Knorr first joined Farm Futures Magazine in 1987. In addition to analyzing and writing about the commodity markets, he is a former futures introducing broker and Commodity Trading Advisor. A journalist with more than 45 years of experience, he received the Master Writers Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association.

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