How Drought Cut Corn, Soybean Yields In 2012

Despite the drought, Iowa will retain its title as the nation's leading corn and soybean producer as 2012 harvest draws to a close.

Published on: Oct 15, 2012

The U.S. corn harvest is forecast at 10.7 billion bushels for 2012, down from 12.5 billion bushels last year. Soybean production will drop from 3.1 billion bushels in 2011 to 2.8 billion bushels this year. That's according to USDA's latest monthly crop forecast, issued October 11. "This report is the most complete assessment of yields since Midwest farmers began their harvest earlier than normal this fall due to the widespread drought this year," says Greg Thessen, director of the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service in Des Moines.

Thus, the U.S. corn crop is expected to be down 13% from 2011, and the soybean crop is estimated at 8% below last year's production. The USDA projects corn prices to average between $7.10 and $8.50 per bushel through early 2013, a price level that is widely expected to discourage livestock producers from increasing their herd sizes and thus putting upward pressure on meat prices.

BIGGER BEAN YIELD: USDAs October estimate is that Iowa soybeans will average 43 bushels per acre this year, up from an estimate of 39 bushels per acre last month. In 2011, Iowas soybean yield averaged 50.5 bushels per acre. Corn yield for Iowa in 2012 is estimated to be 140 bushels per acre according to USDAs October report. Thats unchanged from the September estimate and down from 172 bushels per acre Iowa produced in 2011.
BIGGER BEAN YIELD: USDA's October estimate is that Iowa soybeans will average 43 bushels per acre this year, up from an estimate of 39 bushels per acre last month. In 2011, Iowa's soybean yield averaged 50.5 bushels per acre. Corn yield for Iowa in 2012 is estimated to be 140 bushels per acre according to USDA's October report. That's unchanged from the September estimate and down from 172 bushels per acre Iowa produced in 2011.

The historic drought and summer heat wave took its toll on both corn and soybean yields this year, as most of the Midwest saw production fall, notes Thessen. The U.S. corn yield is forecast to average 123 bushels per acre, down 17% from last year. Soybeans, at 38 bushels per acre, are down 9% from 2011.

USDA estimate shows Iowa still ranks No. 1 in both corn & soybean production

Iowa will retain its title as the nation's leading corn and soybean producer. USDA's October forecast pegs Iowa corn and soybean crops at 1.9 billion bushels and 399 million bushels respectively. Behind Iowa, a shake-up in the standings has occurred as Minnesota's 1.4 billion bushels and Nebraska's 1.3 billion bushels of corn displace long-time runner-up Illinois. Nebraska has a lot of irrigated corn acreage.

Illinois was hit perhaps hardest of any state by the drought this year and will see its corn production plunge to fourth place at 1.22 billion bushels.

Illinois will stay runner-up to Iowa in soybean production with 343.2 million bushels. Behind Iowa and Illinois in soybeans comes Minnesota, with 299 billion bushels, and Nebraska with 202 million bushels.

U.S. corn production in 2012 is estimated to be lowest since 2006

Corn production in the U.S. is forecast at 10.7 billion bushels for 2012, down slightly from the September forecast and down 13% from last year's corn crop. This represents the lowest production in the United States since 2006. Based on conditions as of October 1 when the in-the-field estimates were made, yields are expected to average 122 bushels per acre, down 0.8 bushels from the September forecast and 25.2 bushels below the 2011 average. If realized, this will be the lowest average yield since 1995.

This year's acreage of corn harvested for grain is estimated at 87.7 million acres, up less than 1% from the September forecast and up 4% from 2011.

U.S. soybean production in 2012 is estimated to be 8% below 2011

Soybean production in the U.S. is forecast at 2.86 billion bushels, up 9% from September but down 8% from last year. Based on October 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 37.8 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from last month but down 4.1 bushels per acre from last year. Compared with last month, yield forecasts are higher or unchanged across all states.

This year's acreage harvested for soybeans nationwide is estimated at 75.7 million acres, up 1% from September and up 3% from last year.

Iowa's 2012 corn production is estimated at 19% below 2011 production

Corn production in Iowa this year, based on October 1 conditions, is forecast by USDA at 1.92 billion bushels, 19% less than the amount Iowa produced in 2011. Iowa's corn crop is estimated to yield 140 bushel per acre for a statewide average this year. Iowa's acreage of corn planted and acreage harvested for grain in 2012 are estimated at 14.2 million acres and 13.7 million acres, respectively.

Soybean production in Iowa is forecast at 399 million bushels, down from last year's production of 475 million bushels. Based on October 1 conditions, Iowa's yield is forecast to average 43.0 bushels per acre in 2012, up 4 bushels from the September estimate. Iowa farmers planted 9.35 million acres of soybeans and plan to harvest 9.29 million acres this year.

Iowa's hay crop in 2012 also was reduced significantly by drought

USDA's October crop report estimates hay yield in Iowa in 2012, for alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures, is expected to be 2.9 tons per acre with a total production of 2.32 million tons. The yield of "other hay" is projected to be 1.6 tons per acre, down 26% from 2011.

What do these crop production estimates mean in terms of dollars? As tough as the drought has been this year in Iowa, the state isn't likely to suffer a massive economic falloff from reduced crop yields, thanks to higher corn and soybean prices. Iowa's 2.3 billion bushels of corn harvested in 2011 sold for an average price of $6.20 per bushel, producing $14.26 billion in gross revenue. The 475.5 million bushels of soybeans sold for an average of $12 per bushel, generating $5.7 billion in cash. Iowa's two biggest cash grain crops brought in $20 billion for the first time in the state's history.

This year the state's corn and soybean production will be smaller due to drought, with crops of 1.9 billion bushels of corn and 399.4 million bushels for beans. But at $7.50 average price for corn and $15.50 for soybeans, the cash generated will be in the same $19-$20 billion range as a year ago.