Last week, when USDA raised the sized of the U.S. corn crop, there was a collective gasp in farm country. Prices are already very low, and an even bigger crop wasn’t expected. All attention now has turned to how this mammoth supply will be used in hopes consumption can chew through the mountain of corn.
U.S. farmers are harvesting their largest corn crop on record at some 15.2 billion bushels. It’s the western corn belt that really came through this year with big yields. The November USDA Crop Production report shows that even in the last month those yields got bigger. Up 3 bushel to the acre in Nebraska and South Dakota. 4 bushels higher in Minnesota. And a 17 bushel to the acre increase in North Dakota that came about once farmers (the only real source for yields in that state) took a look at the yield monitors in their combines.
The increased yield for the corn crop creates a scenario says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs where the ending stocks to use ratio is 16.4 percent under current consumption projections. That’s a level, he notes, that has not been seen since the 2005/06 marketing year. And while the corn for export and ethanol numbers seem sound, the feed and residual number has Hubbs concerned.
Quote Summary - They’ve had the feed and residual use projection at 5.65 billion bushels for the few reports. It’s a big number. It is 10 percent up over last year and, with the increased livestock numbers we’ve seen, it sounds reasonable. However, when you consider the mitagating factors surround feed usage; the unseasonably warm fall; a large corn crush for ethanol which increases the availability of distillers grains; DDG’s that may not be shipped overseas because of China’s recent import restrictions; and you see lots of alternative sources for feed rather than corn. Even though there are strong livestock inventory numbers, the mitigating factors want to make you give feed a good look as we move through the marketing year.
Think of it this way. There are a lot of corn acres and lot ethanol plants west of the Mississippi River - Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota are three of the top five corn producing states in the nation. There are also a lot of wheat acres, and a lot of cattle, and a lot of hogs, and more than a few poultry operations. Those birds and animals eat a lot of feed, but the ranchers and farmers make decisions based on economics. Clearly it has been cheaper to leave cattle on pasture this warmer than average fall, and it may be cheaper to feed wheat and DDG’s rather than corn. We won’t really know the impact until the Grain Stocks report is released January 12 says Todd Hubbs.
Quote Summary - The grain stocks report is the only way to back out how much corn for feed is being used. We know how much corn is being crushed for ethanol. There is a pretty good figure on how much of it is being exported. The Grain Stocks let us back figure a calculation for feed usage over the first quarter of the marketing year. So, on January 12th of 2017 the report will come out giving us the December 1 stocks report. This will give us an indication of just how strong feed us is.
So, while a deserved focus has been placed on corn exports, foreign production, and corn used for ethanol, a major portion of each corn crop is fed to livestock. Given the large projected increase for feed and residual usage this marketing year, monitoring those projections will be really important to price discovery.