Four consecutive years of lower commodity prices has nearly exhausted the financial resources of U.S. grain farmers. Todd Gleason looks into the problem with an agricultural economist from the University of Illinois.
There’s a nagging question farmers are wondering about as they harvest what is quite likely to be their best soybean crop ever. Is it so good, so plentiful, that it might be time to consider selling some of next year’s crop.
Let’s start with some plain facts. The price of soybeans from April through August was higher, on average, than it was in the prior seven months. This says Darrel Good is because the trade expected there to be a whole lot of soybeans leftover from last years harvest by the time right now arrived. Something like 450 million bushels. That didn’t happen. The South American crop failed and U.S. exports jumped by 250 million bushels. Like most of the previous years, all but one since 2008, this left fewer than 200 bushels in the bin from the previous season’s soybean crop. Here’s how Good, a University of Illinois Agricultural Economist, says that should all play out in the coming months.
With consumption during the 2016–17 marketing already projected to be record large, an increase in the average yield forecast (without an unexpected decline in the estimate of harvested acreage) would likely result in an increase in the current projection of year-ending stocks of 365 million bushels. Two additional factors point to the potential for additional weakness in soybean prices during the 2016–17 marketing year. -Darrel Good
First, and you can read this on the Farm Doc Daily website, USDA expects a modest increase in soybean acreage for harvest in South America next year. While an increase of only 1.5 percent is currently projected (mostly in Brazil), normal yield levels result in a projected 3.5 percent (220 million bushels) year-over-year increase in soybeans from the southern hemisphere. If that large crop materializes, the pace of U.S. exports would be expected to experience the normal sharp seasonal decline beginning in the spring of 2017. A second factor that could contribute to lower soybean prices, says Darrel Good, is an increase in soybean acreage in the U.S. next year.
While it is too early to form solid expectations about U.S. acreage, low prices of other commodities relative to soybeans would be expected to result in some switch away from those crops to soybeans. In particular, the large increase in corn acreage in 2016, prospects for relatively large year-ending corn inventories, and the relatively high cost of producing corn would be expected to result in fewer corn acres in 2017. Futures prices for the 2017 corn and wheat crops are higher than prices for the 2016 crop, but those prices are still low relative to prices for the 2017 soybean crop. The USDA’s Winter Wheat Seedings report released in the second week of January 2017 will provide the first indication of acreage response to current price levels. The size of the 2017 soybean crop will still largely hinge on the average yield. It will be interesting to observe if three consecutive years of above trend U.S. average soybean yields will alter early expectations for the average yield in 2017.
Here’s what Darrel Good thinks this all means at the moment. With so much production uncertainty over the next 10 months, a strong pace of Chinese buying, and the recent history of smaller than expected year-ending stocks, it is not completely surprising that the market is not yet reflecting the potential for a growing surplus of soybeans during the 2017–18 marketing year. The question for producers, he says, is whether or not current prices offer a pricing opportunity for a portion of the 2017 crop.
The answer is more likely to be yes for those who intend to increase soybean acreage in response to the current corn, wheat, and soybean price relationships.
Early corn yield reports have been good, but pretty variable. There are more than few concerns about a disease called diplodia, too. Some are beginning to piece these items together to make a case for USDA to lower its corn yield estimate. This isn’t very likely thinks University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.
“The fact is”, says Darrel Good, “if you look at the last 20 years of history, there is a strong tendency of the corn yield estimate to get higher in January compared to what it was in September. This has happened 70% of the time in the last 20 years, and almost 70% of the time in the last 40 years. So, those looking for a lower estimate are bucking history, but you can’t rule it out.”
Maybe not, but even if the USDA yield changes it won’t be by much thinks Darrel Good. Certainly not enough to really alter the supply/demand balance sheet changing it from a surplus to a tight supply situation. He doesn’t expect USDA to change the acreage numbers much either. This is because the difference between the Farm Service Agency reported acreage figures released in August and then again in September was very small.
This tells Darrel Good reporting has occurred in a very timely fashion. Therefore, he doesn’t look for an FSA increase in subsequent reports. Historically when the dust settles on corn, NASS acreage is three to three-and-a-half percent higher than FSA, says the U of I number cruncher, and about two percent higher on soybeans. This is right in the range where the FSA numbers set today.
Consequently, Darrel Good does not expect NASS to change its corn acreage estimate very much going forward. If this is the case, it leaves the U.S. with record corn yield and production figures.
The United States Department of Agriculture judges this year’s corn crop to be a record breaker. If it all comes in as predicted in USDA’s September reports there will be none bigger, and the market believes it so far. The price of corn has dropped about a dollar a bushel since earlier in the summer. This price isn’t likely to change much thinks Darrel Good until some new information comes along in one of the USDA reports, and that might not be until next spring.
As long as we have that kind of carryover prospects, the market sees no reason to push prices higher to reduce consumption. - Darrel GoodThe big response he’ll be looking for is in U.S. acreage next spring, says Good. The agricultural economist suggests the price of corn now, when compared to the price of soybeans, should result in some acreage shift from corn to soybeans next years. This could result in some relief on the supply side of the corn market.
This shift, if it comes, would be from farmers responding to market signals. Right now the price of soybeans compared to corn suggest farmers in the United States should seriously consider changing up next year’s crop mix, planting more soybeans. As for marketing this year’s corn crop, well, Darrel Good says it’s a waiting game for corn, and may very well be directly related to the acreage response.
There is some carry in the market. It is not huge. Prices remain fairly low. You’d say storage is a better option for corn, but you’ll have to store it at least through the first of the year, maybe into the spring of the year, before you could anticipate much of a rebound in spot prices. - Darrel GoodDarrel Good writes about the commodity markets each Monday. The articles are posted to the FarmDocDaily website.
We are coming off a period in central Illinois when spot soybean prices were running well above November futures. Twenty to thirty cents above, but it has begun to erode. However, we are still looking at prices pretty close to option value. It says to me with big yields and that kind of price, well over $9.00, revenue looks pretty good by selling some soybeans at least, if not a majority of the soybeans right out of the field.-Darrel Good
The sooner the better and the higher the quick ship premium, although those are likely to disappear quickly thinks Darrel Good.
Store #corn, but you’ll need to hang on for a while says Darrel Good.https://t.co/gydUMuQa17 @uie_ag pic.twitter.com/4CeVV9RrGX— Todd E. Gleason (@commodityweek) September 15, 2016
The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) - an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - released average county cash rents for 2016 the second week of September. These county rents are used to imply average rents for different expected corn yields in the state of Illinois.
Bayer and Monsanto today announced that they signed a definitive merger agreement under which Bayer will acquire Monsanto for $128 U.S. dollars per share in an all-cash transaction.
Bayer Ag Brands
The combined agriculture business will have its global Seeds & Traits and North American commercial headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, its global Crop Protection and overall Crop Science headquarters in Monheim, Germany, and an important presence in Durham, North Carolina, as well as many other locations throughout the U.S. and around the world. The Digital Farming activities for the combined business will be based in San Francisco, California.
Advancing Together is the company website dedicated to explaining the deal. Bayer employs 116,800 people around the planet. Monsanto employs more than 20,000 of which about 12,000 are based in the United States.
When the merger is complete, scheduled for sometime in 2017, the combined company will be nearly balanced with approximately half of its assets in the agricultural sector and the other half in healthcare.
The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including Monsanto shareholder approval of the merger agreement and receipt of required regulatory approvals. Closing is expected by the end of 2017.
* graphics and video courtesy Bayer
Corn production is forecast at 15.1 billion bushels, up 11 percent from last year but down less than one percent from the August forecast. Based on conditions as of September 1, yields are expected to average 174.4 bushels per acre, down 0.7 bushel from the August forecast but up 6 bushels from 2015. If realized, this will be the highest yield and production on record for the United States. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 86.6 million acres, unchanged from the August forecast, but up 7 percent from 2015.
Soybean production is forecast at a record 4.20 billion bushels, up 3 percent from August and up 7 percent from last year. Based on September 1 conditions, yields are expected to average a record 50.6 bushels per acre, up 1.7 bushels from last month and up 2.6 bushels from last year. Area for harvest in the United States is forecast at a record 83.0 million acres, unchanged from August but up 1 percent from 2015.
Selected States Yield
Aug Sep State
200.0 200.0 Illinois
187.0 185.0 Indiana
198.0 196.0 Iowa
184.0 184.0 Minnesota
187.0 184.0 Nebraska
145.0 151.0 Kansas
163.0 162.0 Ohio
147.0 142.0 South Dakota
135.0 135.0 North Dakota
Aug Sep State
57.0 61.0 Illinois
55.0 58.0 Indiana
57.0 58.0 Iowa
47.0 49.0 Minnesota
59.0 59.0 Nebraska
40.0 44.0 Kansas
52.0 53.0 Ohio
42.0 43.0 South Dakota
33.0 35.0 North Dakota
Urbana, Illinois - Wednesday morning September 7, 2016 University of Illinois Extension Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey presented a webinar looking forward into 2017. The discussion centered on farm profitability, projected income, and cash rents. You may the watch the webinar. What follows is a summary of the hour long content.
The USDA WASDE monthly average corn price is $4.67 from 2006 to 2016. The price of corn has been below this average since the fall of 2013 & Gary Schnitkey believes it is likely to continue to stay below this average through the 2017/18 crop year.
Each year USDA tracks the average marketing year cash price. This price is updated monthly in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. The average cash price for corn from 1975 to 2005 is $2.33, $5.95 for soybeans. This is a long term national average cash price. The USDA projected estimates for this marketing year (2016/17) are currently $3.15 and $9.10. The USDA estimate for the 2015 crops is $3.60 and $9.05. This last set can be used to compute expected ARC County payments to be delivered this fall.
Here is a [link](http://farmdoc.illinois.edu/fasttools/index.asp) to the FarmDoc Fast Tools web page from which you may download an Excel spreadsheet to project ARC & PLC payments.
The following tables detail gross revenue per acre for highly productive central Illinois farmland. These are actual, as derived from the Illinois Farm Business Farm Management records, and projected revenues.
Operator and land returns have been declining for both corn and soybeans for several years. However, returns from soybeans have been out performing corn since 2013. Schnitkey predicts this will continue through 2017. It would be the fifth year of higher returns for soybeans than corn. Raising corn on cash rented farmland has been a loser since 2014.
Total income on all Illinois corn and soybean farm (all types of owned & cash rented combined) for 2016 projects a breakeven income year.
Schnitkey says farmers will face three key decision making factors as they consider cash renting farmland for 2017, and that it might be better to give up some of the land based on these considerations.
Across the board the University of Illinois agricultural economist says farmers might need to rethink crop rotations. Soybeans have proved better for several years, and it may be time to adjust to this reality. This or it needs to get cheaper to plant corn. Back in 2000 it costs $63 less to sow and harvest an acre of soybeans. This year the difference was more than $200 an acre of non-land costs in favor of soybeans over corn.
Last week the professional farm managers in Illinois suggested they'd be lowering cash rents by about $20 next year (ISPFMRA Survey). Gary Schnitkey's number is a more conservative $17 an acre based on the fact not all land is professionally managed. Neither of these would be enough to make a cash rented farm break even given $3.50 corn and $9.00 soybeans (2017 | by expected corn yield across Illinois).
So what's the impact on the price of farmland? Well, says Schnitkey, if interest rates stay low the price of farmland will drop by approximately the same percentage change as the cash rent drops. Because cash rent changes very slowly, this is good news for farmland owners, bankers, and producer owners.
Each Tuesday Gary Schnitkey posts a new article to the FarmDocDaily website. Periodically he and the other agricultural economist at the University of Illinois hosts webinars. You may register for upcoming webinars and watch those that have already concluded on this page.