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Bumper corn and soybean crops are still possible in 2009, despite a very unusual growing season, according to the latest Farm Futures survey of U.S. farmers.
Corn production could reach 12.545 billion, the second biggest crop in history, with soybeans setting an all-time high at 3.275 billion.
Tomorrow, the USDA reports 2009 production, in a widely anticipated release that features the agency's first estimates based on in-field surveys, not statistical guesses. The government also will update acreage for corn in seven states where planting delays made its June 30 estimates uncertain.
Farm Futures found a 2 million acre drop in corn plantings from USDA's June survey, with the total falling to 85.04 million. But farmers also reported above average yields of 160.3 bpa, compared to the current USDA statistical guess of 153.4. Farm Futures' production estimate is 255 million above the July government forecast.
Farm Futures put the average U.S. soybean yield at 42.8 bpa, slightly higher than USDA's trend forecast.
"But any production estimates now come with a big asterisk," says Farm Futures senior editor Bryce Knorr, who directed the survey. "Growing season weather will determine final yields, and the delayed maturity of both crops leaves them vulnerable to frost. Damage from early cold happens rarely, but when it does – such as 1974 and 1993 – the impact can be huge."
Farm Futures market analyst Arlan Suderman says tight old crop soybean carryout means even slight changes in yield could have a big impact.
"The margin for error is very small for soybeans," says Suderman. "New-crop soybean export sales are already at record levels, making normal yields essential."
While corn stocks appear adequate, supplies depend on good yields that are far from guaranteed.
"It will likely be feast or famine in the Midwest this year," Suderman says. "High crop ratings shout record yields, but an early frost could quickly ignite bullish talk of shortages. Anxiety is highest in the northern Red River Valley, but other areas of the northern and eastern Midwest are at risk as well."
Farm Futures surveyed 741 growers from around the U.S. by email from July 24 to August 5. Knorr and Suderman will discuss the survey results and its implications in their weekly online video program, The Buzz, which will be available Thursday afternoon at www.FarmFutures.com.
Like Prairie Farmer, Farm Futures is published by Farm Progress.