Free & Confidential Tile Line Water Test at Farm Progress Show

Nine states in the Mississippi River basin have developed strategies to control the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous making its way to the Gulf of Mexico. These plant nutrients contribute to the Hypoxia Zone. During the Farm Progress Show the Illinois Corn Growers Association is offering free tile line water sample testing to help make farmers aware of the plan and the problem.

Let’s start with the problem. The fertilizers used on lawns, gardens, and farms doesn’t always stay put. It leaches into streams and rivers and is carried to the Gulf of Mexico where the plant nutrients cause great algae blooms. These deplete the water of oxygen and aquatic life.

The plan is to voluntarily reduce the plant nutrient load. The first step says Illinois Corn Growers Director of Communications Tricia Braid is to make farmers aware of just how much nitrogen is being lost from their fields. That’s why the Corn Growers are offering free water sample testing at the Farm Progress Show.

Quote Summary - Because farmers want to keep the nutrients applied for the crop where the crop needs it. If it is starting to move out of your tiles, that is lost money for the farmer and also a potential problem for the water quality. So we are working at awareness here and helping people get an understanding of what nitrogen movement means on their farms.

This awareness campaign is also related to the recent release of the Illinois Nutrient Reduction Loss strategy. It is a document put forth by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Agriculture that sets some clean water goals for all the stake holders in Illinois to achieve.

Quote Summary - So, agriculture plays a big part in that. We are not the only people involved. We understand that, but we certainly do have a role to play. The example we have for the Decatur area, the site of the Farm Progress Show, is that on average tile drained ground in the Sangamon River Watershed loses about 26 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. That adds up. If it is leaving the tile, it is not helping the crop, and it is going somewhere unintended. We really want folks to understand how nutrients are moving at different times of the year.

Those wanting to have their tile line water tested can bring an 8 ounce sample to the Illinois Corn Growers Association tent at the Farm Progress Show. Collect the sample within 48 hours of arriving. Keep it refrigerated until you leave for the show. If you’d like more results you can do a flow test. Just count off how many seconds it takes the tile line to fill a five gallon bucket.

Corn Prices Reflect Export Concerns

December corn futures have been on roller coaster ride up and down this year. First it appeared there would be way to much of the grain, and then - because of the rains - maybe too little, and now it feels like the too-little might become just enough.

The just enough to meet the need has put pressure on the market to move lower. This weakness, writes Darrel Good in this week’s online Farm Doc Daily article, is coming from the supply side. There is a general agreement USDA’s corn production forecast will not increase. It, in August, put this fall’s corn harvest at 13.686 billion bushels. Instead, market commentary seems to suggest the trade is expecting the yield forecast to decline by as much as three to four bushels to the acre. So the crop is getting smaller, but so’s the price. It’s about demand says Good.

Continuing weakness in corn prices reflects perceived demand weakness. Concerns about demand may stem from two sources. First is the concern that exports of U.S corn will fall short of the current USDA projection of 1.85 billion bushels. Second, is the concern about slow economic growth domestically and globally.

Clearly, domestic consumption of corn during the 2015–16 marketing year is not of immediate concern. The USDA projection of 5.25 billion bushels of corn used for ethanol production is consistent with the 5.2 billion expected for the marketing year just ending and a modest increase in domestic gasoline consumption next year. The projection of 5.3 billion bushels for feed and residual use next year equals the projection for the current year. Another large crop implies large residual use of corn and low corn prices along with steady to higher animal numbers should support actual feed consumption of corn.

On-the-other-hand USDA projects corn exports during the 2015–16 marketing year that begins on September 1 at 1.85 billion bushels, equal to the projection for the current year. However, total outstanding sales of U.S. corn for export during the 2015–16 marketing year are relatively small says Darrel Good.

It is recognized that the magnitude of early sales is not a good predictor of marketing year exports. Since 2005, sales as of mid-August as a percentage of marketing year exports have ranged from about eight percent (2005–06) to 42 percent (2012–13) and averaged 18 percent. Current sales represent 12 percent of the USDA projection for the upcoming marketing year. Still, the small export sales total is concerning in the context of potentially weak world demand, the relatively strong U.S. dollar, and expectations of large supplies of corn in other exporting countries.

Factually, with nearly 55 weeks remaining until the end of the 2015–16 marketing year, export sales need to average about 30 million bushels per week in order for exports to reach 1.85 billion bushels. Here’s how this all plays out on the farm. Producers will need to evaluate the corn storage decision says Darrel Good. Current low prices mean farmers will likely choose to store much of the crop that has not yet been priced. The current basis in the cash market and the carry in the futures market give some indication about the potential return to storing corn. In central Illinois, for example, the average cash bid for harvest delivery reflects a basis of about -$.30 relative to December 2015 contract and -$0.52 relative to July 2016 futures. Good says if the July basis improves to about -$.05 by June 2016 (as it did this year) the market is offering about $0.47 per bushel to store corn for about nine months.

That return would cover the out of pocket costs of farm storage, but may be closer to breakeven for commercial storage costs for some producers. The only way to capture the storage return, however, is to forward price the stored crop in the cash or futures market. The spot price of corn will have to increase by more than $0.47 by next spring in order for the return on corn stored unpriced to exceed the likely return to a storage hedge.

Will the Corn Production Forecast Get Smaller

To this point in the season USDA seems satisfied there will be plenty of corn around for the coming year and it won’t be a worth a whole lot. However, possibilities remain that the crop could shrink in size, and that the price might consequently rally.

The price of corn can rally for two reasons. The trade might think the size of this year’s harvest is getting smaller, or there could more demand for the crop - no matter its size. Darrel Good has decided to take up both of those issues. Today we’ll hear what he thinks about the possibilities that corn crop might be smaller than predicted in August. The University of Illinois agricultural economist says a smaller supply projection could result from some combination of a lower estimate of harvested acreage or a smaller yield forecast.

The estimate of planted and harvested acreage should become more precise in October as the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has a chance to review acreage data reported to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) by producers enrolled in federal farm programs. Last year, for example, the forecast of harvested acreage declined by 742,000 acres from August to October. For now, the FSA monthly reports of planted and prevented acreage will be monitored to form expectations about likely changes in NASS acreage estimates. The first of those reports was released today, with producers reporting 83.147 million acres planted to corn compared to the current NASS estimate of 88.897 million.

That’s a big difference, but the FSA acreage figure will grow as acreage reporting and processing is completed. It is important to remember the final FSA figure will be less than the final NASS estimate since not all producers are required to report acreage to the Farm Service Agency. So far FSA shows 2.3 million prevent plant corn acres have been certified. That compares to 1.54 million acres reported in August last year and the final 2014 report of 1.6 million. While big, Darrel Good doesn’t that that difference is significant.

The magnitude of prevented plantings reported so far this year does not point to a substantial decline in the NASS estimate of planted acreage of corn. It is possible, however, that the NASS forecast of corn acreage harvested for grain will decline. The current forecast of the difference between planted acreage and acreage harvested for grain of 7.8 million acres is only 300,000 acres larger than the 1996 to 2014 average.

The NASS August forecast of the 2015 U.S. average corn yield of 168.8 bushels was about four bushels above the average trade guess reflected in news service surveys. History suggests that the forecast will likely change in the coming month by enough to alter the expectations of year-ending stocks.

In the 40 years from 1975 through 2014 the yield forecast, says Darrel Good, changed by less than two bushels through the August to November forecast cycle in only five years. Since the August forecast was higher than expected this year, many have argued that subsequent forecasts will be lower. Looking specifically at the change in the yield forecast from August to September, the forecast has declined in 19 of the previous 40 years. The decline exceeded one bushel in 14 of those years and exceeded two bushels in nine years. None of this, unless weather conditions change, lead Darrel Good to believe USDA will find much different to report this September.

At this juncture, a case for a substantially lower USDA corn production forecast next month is difficult to make. That picture could change a bit based on actual weather conditions and crop condition ratings over the next three weeks.

The September USDA Crop Production Report is due Friday the 11th.

Will the Corn Production Forecast Get Smaller

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Will the Corn Production Forecast Get Smaller
Darrel Good, Ag Economist - University of Illinois

To this point in the season USDA seems satisfied there will be plenty of corn around for the coming year and it won’t be a worth a whole lot. Todd Gleason has more on the possibilities that the crop could shrink in size, and that the price might consequently rally.

The price of corn can rally for two reasons…
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4:08 radio self contained

The price of corn can rally for two reasons. The trade might think the size of this year’s harvest is getting smaller, or there could more demand for the crop - no matter its size. Darrel Good has decided to take up both of those issues. Today we’ll hear what he thinks about the possibilities that corn crop might be smaller than predicted in August. The University of Illinois agricultural economist says a smaller supply projection could result from some combination of a lower estimate of harvested acreage or a smaller yield forecast.

Good :42 …compared to the current NASS estimate of 88.897 million.

Quote Summary - The estimate of planted and harvested acreage should become more precise in October as the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has a chance to review acreage data reported to the Farm Service Agency (FSA) by producers enrolled in federal farm programs. Last year, for example, the forecast of harvested acreage declined by 742,000 acres from August to October. For now, the FSA monthly reports of planted and prevented acreage will be monitored to form expectations about likely changes in NASS acreage estimates. The first of those reports was released today, with producers reporting 83.147 million acres planted to corn compared to the current NASS estimate of 88.897 million.

That’s a big difference, but the FSA acreage figure will grow as acreage reporting and processing is completed. It is important to remember the final FSA figure will be less than the final NASS estimate since not all producers are required to report acreage to the Farm Service Agency. So far FSA shows 2.3 million prevent plant corn acres have been certified. That compares to 1.54 million acres reported in August last year and the final 2014 report of 1.6 million. While big, Darrel Good doesn’t that that difference is significant.

Good :31 …is only 300,000 acres larger than the 1996 to 2014 average.

Quote Summary - The magnitude of prevented plantings reported so far this year does not point to a substantial decline in the NASS estimate of planted acreage of corn. It is possible, however, that the NASS forecast of corn acreage harvested for grain will decline. The current forecast of the difference between planted acreage and acreage harvested for grain of 7.8 million acres is only 300,000 acres larger than the 1996 to 2014 average.

The NASS August forecast of the 2015 U.S. average corn yield of 168.8 bushels was about four bushels above the average trade guess reflected in news service surveys. History suggests that the forecast will likely change in the coming month by enough to alter the expectations of year-ending stocks.

In the 40 years from 1975 through 2014 the yield forecast, says Darrel Good, changed by less than two bushels through the August to November forecast cycle in only five years. Since the August forecast was higher than expected this year, many have argued that subsequent forecasts will be lower. Looking specifically at the change in the yield forecast from August to September, the forecast has declined in 19 of the previous 40 years. The decline exceeded one bushel in 14 of those years and exceeded two bushels in nine years. None of this, unless weather conditions change, lead Darrel Good to believe USDA will find much different to report this September.

Good :17 …crop condition ratings over the next three weeks.

Quote Summary - At this juncture, a case for a substantially lower USDA corn production forecast next month is difficult to make. That picture could change a bit based on actual weather conditions and crop condition ratings over the next three weeks.

The September USDA Crop Production Report is due Friday the 11th.

Marketing this Fall's Corn & Soybean Crop

The numbers from the August USDA Crop Production report have farmers reeling. They did not expect them to show bigger number for corn or soybeans and neither did University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Quote Summary - My reaction is much like the market. USDA projected larger corn and soybean crops in its August Crop Production report than what we were looking for. That came from higher than expected yields for both corn and soybeans and probably from higher than expected harvested acres for soybeans. So, the net affect is that the balance sheet for the upcoming marketing year now looks plentiful. There doesn’t appear to be prospects for a shortage of either corn or soybeans and it will be difficult for prices to rebound from the low levels coming into the fall of 2015.

USDA’s figures show a corn crop two bushels to the acre better than expected last month and 156 million bushels bigger. The soybean number was up nearly a bushel to the acre and is now projected to be a little less than four billion bushels in size. Darrel Good is not so sure the soybean crop will stay so big and urges patients as it relates to making flat price bean sales. Corn is a different animal.

Quote Summary - In terms of flat price prospects, there is probably not much room for movement in terms of corn prices until we get into the spring of next year and then we start the weather game all over again. So, if we are thinking of storing corn unpriced, it must be a longterm decision. If there is sufficient carry in the market to cover storage cost, then storing and forward pricing is still and opportunity on corn.

The carry in soybeans - that’s the premium paid to a farmer to store a crop for delivery at a later date - is rarely sufficient to cover storage cost says Darrel Good. But he adds there may be a little more room for the price of soybeans to rally in the near term.

Quote Summary - If we do loose a few of those expected harvest acres and if the yield is not quite as high as currently forecast, then we could see a near term bounce in soybean prices.

This bounce could occur just before or just after harvest dependent upon future USDA production reports.

USDA's Crop Yield Forecasting Method

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will release the first survey-based yield and production forecasts for the 2015 corn and soybean crops this Wednesday (tomorrow/today). Even though a description of the NASS crop production forecast methodology is widely available, there always seems to be some misconceptions about how NASS makes corn and soybean yield forecasts. University of Illinois agricultural economists Darrel Good and Scott Irwin put together a brief overview of that methodology and posted to the FarmDocDaily website.

While they say their summary does not do full justice to the very comprehensive forecasting methodology, it is useful to place the upcoming yield forecasts in the proper perspective.

NASS corn and soybean yield forecasts are made in August, September, October and November. The final yield estimate is released in January based on the comprehensive December Agricultural Survey of producers. Two types of surveys are used each month to collect the forecast data.

The Monthly Agricultural Yield Survey (AYS) of producers is conducted in 32 states for corn and 29 states for soybeans with a total of about 25,000 producers surveyed for all crops in August. The Objective Yield Survey (OYS) is conducted in 10 states for corn and 11 states for soybeans. The surveys are generally conducted in a two week period ending about a week before the release of the forecasts.

For the Agricultural Yield Survey, a sample of farm operations to be surveyed is drawn from those who responded to the June acreage survey. While the sample of operations to be surveyed changes from year-to-year, for any particular year the same operations are interviewed each month from August through November. Survey respondents are asked to identify the number of acres of corn and soybeans to be harvested and to provide a forecast of the final yield of each crop. Based on these responses, average yields are forecast for each survey state and for the nation.

The goal of the Objective Yield Survey program is to generate yield forecasts based on actual plant counts and measurements .The sample of fields (1,920 for corn and 1,835 for soybeans) is selected from farms that reported corn (soybeans) planted or to be planted in the June acreage survey. A random sample of fields is drawn with the probability of selection of any particular field being proportional to the size of the tract. Two plots are then randomly selected in each field.

Data collected from each corn plot during the forecast cycle are used to measure the size of the unit and to measure or forecast the number of ears and grain weight. These data include (as available based on maturity) row width, number of stalks per row, number of stalks with ears or ear shoots per row, number of ears with kernels, kernel row length, ear diameter, ear weight in dent stage, weight of shelled grain, moisture content, total ear weight of harvested unit, lab weight of sample ears, weight of grain from sample ears, and moisture content of shelled grain from sample of mature ears. Corn yield is forecast based on the forecast (or measurement if maturity allows) of the number of ears, the weight per ear, and harvest loss.

Data collected from soybean plots (as available based on maturity) include row width; number of plants in each row; number of main stem nodes, lateral branches, dried flowers and pods, and pods with beans; weight and moisture content of beans harvested by enumerator; and weight and moisture content of harvest loss. The data collected are used to forecast yield based on a forecast (or measurement if maturity allows) of the number of plants per acre, the number of pods with beans per plant, the average bean weight, and harvest loss.

For both corn and soybeans, the state average yield forecast based on the Objective Yield Survey is the simple average of the yields for all the sample fields. In addition, a state yield forecast is also made by first averaging the forecast or actual yield factors (such as stalk counts, ear counts, and ear weight) and then forecasting the state average yield directly from these averages. This forecast is based on a regression analysis of the historical relationship (15 years) between the yield factors and the state average yield. State average yields are combined to forecast the U.S. average yield.

The NASS corn and soybean survey and forecasting procedures produce a number of indictors of the average yield. In August these indicators include: average field level yields from the Objective Yield Survey, average state level counts from the Objective Yield Survey, and the average yield reported by farmers in the Agricultural Yield Survey. Each of the indicators provides input into the determination of the official yield forecasts by the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board.

The accuracy of the USDA yield forecasts, write Darrel Good and Scott Irwin, relative to the final yield estimates varies from year to year, but as would be expected, improves each month through the forecast cycle as the crops become more mature.

Corn Price Fade may be too Early

The price of corn has dropped because the trade believes there will be plenty of it around. Farmers, generally, are not convinced that will be the case, at least east of the Mississippi River.



The price of corn in Chicago increased about $0.90 per bushel from mid-June to mid-July. The increase was driven by a combination of a smaller-than-expected USDA estimate of June 1 stocks and production concerns stemming from record June rainfall in much of the eastern Corn Belt. Over the past two weeks, corn futures prices have declined nearly $0.80 per bushel as production concerns have subsided. Today the trade thinks, based on price, the amount of corn available for the next year will be more than needed.

CME Group December Corn Futures - Daily Chart
There are couple of ways this could change. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good says a tighter supply and demand balance sheet for the coming year could be generated by a tighter supply of old crop corn carried into that new marketing year.
Darrel Good - Based on the current pace of ethanol production, for example, the use of corn for ethanol production during the current marketing year (ending August 31) could be about 10 million bushels more than the current USDA projection of 5.2 billion bushels. Similarly, exports could be slightly larger than the projection of 1.85 billion bushels if Census Bureau export estimates for June, July, and August exceed the USDA export inspection estimates as was the case in the first nine months of the marketing year. However, for carryover stocks to be lower than the current projection of 1.79 billion bushels by enough to meaningfully alter the 2015–16 supply and demand balance would require larger than expected feed and residual use of corn during the final quarter of the marketing year.
This won’t be known until the Grain Stocks report is released September 30th. A tighter supply and demand balance sheet for corn could also result from larger than expected consumption during the year ahead. Such a development would obviously take time to unfold, but opportunities for consumption to exceed the current projection appear to be limited thinks Good. This leaves the size of the crop in the ground as the primary lever by which prices might be pushed higher.
Darrel Good - The trade's average yield expectation appears to be near 165 bushels, 1.8 bushels less than projected in the July 10 USDA WASDE report. The August production forecast will also reflect the estimate of harvested acreage, but a large change from the June acreage forecast is not expected. Based on the projection of 81.1 million acres harvested for grain, a yield of 165 bushels would result in a crop of 13.38 billion bushels, about 150 million bushels less than projected in the July WASDE report. Still, if 2015–16 marketing year consumption is near the current USDA projection of 13.735 billion bushels, year-ending stocks would be abundant at about 1.45 billion bushels. On the other hand, a yield forecast of 161 bushels or less would likely be sufficient to push prices back to the mid-July highs.
Recent corn price declines indicate, says Darrel Good, that the market is removing the production risk premium from the price structure in anticipation of another year of surplus. The question is whether that removal is premature. The USDA’s Crop Production report to be released on August 12 will contain the first survey-based yield and production forecasts for the 2015 crop.