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USDA released very bullish corn and soybean production numbers in its monthly Crop Production report Friday morning. And, the grains responded in kind: Corn, soybeans and wheat all ended Friday's trade locked at limit-up price levels, and market-watchers expect the surge to continue for quite some time.
Corn production's forecast 4% lower than the September report (at 12.7 billion bushels), while soybeans were adjusted 2% lower from a month ago in Friday's report (at 3.41 billion bushels). Corn yields are pegged at 155.8 bushels per acre, down 6.7 bushels from last month and 8.9 bushels below the 2009 crop. Soybeans are expected to average 44.4 bushels per acre, down slightly from last month's guess and up a bit from a year ago.
USDA also made major adjustments to some states' average corn yields in Friday's report. For Iowa, USDA pegged the state's crop at 169 bushels/acre, down from 179 bushels/acre in the September report. Indiana's average yield went from 170 to 160, while Illinois saw the largest yield drop, going from 174 bushels/acre in the September report to 160 bushels/acre in Friday's report.
Putting these numbers into perspective, Rabobank economists Luke Chandler and Doug Whitehead said Friday afternoon that USDA's estimates amount to about an 745-million-bushel drop in corn production in "only a couple of months.
"Average trade estimates suggested a number closer to 160 bushels/acre today," Chandler and Whitehead wrote Friday afternoon.
- See more from Friday's report
- Acreage battle, wheat & basis: Discuss it all in Marketing Talk
- See how prices are responding
The message from Friday's numbers paint a fairly clear picture: It all boils down to a big-time bullish boost to the trade in both pits, says U.S. Commodities market analyst Don Roose.
"What it says is small crops get smaller, particularly on corn," Roose says.
In the short term, Cargill senior grain merchandiser Ray Jenkins says the bullish numbers -- which he says will likely drive prices through the rest of fall, winter and early spring through planting -- will erase the last few days' technical ebbing in the corn trade.
"The bull-spreading of the front month gaining on the back-end month was an early indication the market was paying attention. If we closed limit-up today, we would negate all this technical washout from this week," Jenkins says of the corn market. "This is a complete game-changer. This will be a longer-term situation, not anything that's going to get solved in a week or a month."
For the remainder of this crop year, Jenkins says more farmers may consider selling corn right out of the field and across the scales, especially with the condition of the crop coming out of the field in general this fall.
"The biggest thing it may change this fall with the carry coming out of the market is some might choose to sell corn off the combine," he says. "Moisture's so low there will be no dock and they may take $5 and move on."
Roose says there's a high probability -- around 85% -- that the soybean crop will continue to shrink through the remainder of this fall's harvest. It adds up to a lot of pressure on the grains for the next few months, both at home and abroad.
"We've lost our margin for error on beans, and corn will have to buy more acres," Roose adds. "It puts the South American crop in the forefront."