The highly anticipated release of USDA’s crop production and ending stocks reports last Friday created a somewhat negative tone in corn and soybean markets. Despite the slightly bearish tilt, prices for both commodities closed higher on Friday. The pending phase one trade agreement and South American production prospects look to set the tone for prices over the near term. - Todd Hubbs, ILLINOIS Extension
by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois
link to original farmdocDaily article
Corn production for the U.S. in 2019 came in at 13.69 billion bushels, up 31 million bushels from the previous forecast on higher national average yields. Average corn yield of 168 bushels per acre is one bushel higher than the previous forecast. The harvested acreage estimate of 81.5 million acres is down from the November forecast of 81.8 million acres. Current production estimates for corn show eight percent of the crop still in the field and open the estimate to possible revision in the future.
December 1 corn stocks came in at 11.39 billion bushels. The estimate is 122 million bushels below trade expectations and indicates a total disappearance of 4.53 billion bushels in the first quarter of the marketing year. The USDA’s revision of the September 1 corn stocks higher by 107 million bushels along with greater production indicates a massive feed and residual use component in the first quarter.
At 5.525 billion bushels, the WASDE forecast for corn feed use and residual moved up by 250 million bushels from the previous forecast for the 2019–20 marketing year. Despite the significant boost in consumption from feed and residual, projected ending stocks fell only 18 million bushels from the previous forecast. Consumption projection for categories other than feed and residual fell 95 million bushels. While the corn use for ethanol forecast stayed steady at 5.375 billion bushels, the forecast for other industrial purposes decreased by 20 million bushels to 1.395 billion bushels. The forecast for corn exports dropped 75 million bushels to 1.775 billion bushels due to the continuation of weak export numbers through the first four months of the marketing year. The pending trade deal with China holds the promise for change in some of the consumption totals.
The phase one trade deal due to be signed sometime this week still lacks specificity. While the administration continues to tout agricultural export increases near $16 billion over 2017 totals of $24 billion, very little confirmation from the Chinese side has come forth thus far. The Chinese indicated that they would not exceed their global quota on corn imports for any individual country in 2020. The quota for corn stands at 7.2 million metric tons (near 283 million bushels). Through November of 2019, Census data indicates China imported 12.3 million bushels of corn from the U.S. during the calendar year. There remains plenty of room for increased Chinese imports of U.S. corn and corn-related products in 2020 despite the quota. Details surrounding the trade deal matter and look to help shape price prospects for corn over the next few months.
Foreign production projections for corn in the 2019–20 marketing year moved up slightly due to an increase in the European Union and Russian production. Brazil’s corn production forecast stayed at 3.98 billion bushels. Concerns about production losses for first crop corn in southern Brazil due to dry conditions continue to evolve. Strong domestic corn prices in Brazil point to producers planting the safrinha crop even if planting is later than ideal in many areas. Argentinian production forecasts stayed at 1.97 billion bushels. The forecast for Argentina and Brazil corn exports sit at 2.73 billion bushels, 335 million bushels lower than last marketing year. Given the current forecast for South American exports, the evolution of crop conditions in the region, particularly on the Brazilian safrinha crop, hold important implications for corn exports during the coming year.
Soybean production for the U.S. in 2019 totaled 3.558 billion bushels, up 8 million bushels from the previous forecast on higher national average yields. The national average soybean yield of 47.4 bushels per acre is 0.5 bushels higher than the previous forecast. The harvested acreage estimate of 75 million acres is down from the prior forecast of 75.6 million acres. Current production estimates for soybeans indicate two percent of the crop remains in the field. December 1 soybean stocks came in at 3.252 billion bushels, 66 million bushels above trade expectations.
The WASDE report maintained consumption and ending stock projections at the same levels seen in the last forecast. The crush forecast stayed at 2.105 billion bushels, reflecting the pace of soybean crush in the first quarter of the marketing year. Soybean export forecast levels of 1.775 billion bushels remained steady and mirrored the current pace of exports without the possible trade deal impacts. Unlike corn, soybeans do not face a quota scenario in China. A trade deal with specificity on soybean exports could provide support for prices.
A Brazilian crop at 4.519 billion bushels portends tough competition in world markets for U.S. exports. The Argentinian soybean production forecast stayed steady at 1.95 billion bushels. Forecasts for Brazil and Argentina soybean exports are set at 3.09 billion bushels over the marketing year, up 15 million bushels from last marketing year’s estimate. Increased U.S. soybean exports to China under the trade deal may see strong substitution buying of South American soybeans by other major buyers that may limit U.S. exports upside potential despite a trade agreement.
Additional discussion and graphs associated with this article available here.
The price of soybeans may have put in a seasonal low but there are a lot of factors at play. Todd Gleason has more on what farmers should do with University of Illinois Agricultural economist Todd Hubbs.
September 16, 2019 by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois
Last week’s price rally in the soybean market relied on the prospects of easing trade tensions with China. The potential for soybean prices to maintain recent momentum depends on developments in trade negotiations and production prospects for both the U.S. and South America.
USDA’s September soybean production forecast came in at 3.633 billion bushels, down 47 million bushels from the August forecast. Yield per harvested acre fell by 0.6 bushels per acre to 47.9 from the August forecast of 48.5. Compared to the August forecast, yield prospects for the top ten states in soybean acreage increased in Missouri and Kansas. Yield prospects declined in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and South Dakota. North Dakota, Nebraska, and Ohio saw no change in expected yield from August.
The crop production report showed the lowest pod count for the 11-states in the objective yield survey since 2012. At 1,561 pods per 18-square feet, this year’s pod count led to an implied pod weight near 0.35 grams per pod. A pod weight at this level is the highest in a decade and led to speculation about potential lower pod weights in this late-planted crop. Over the last five years, pod counts increased from the September forecast to the final yield estimate. Pod weights over the same period fell in four out of the five years.
In conjunction with the lower production forecast, total supply for the 2019–20 marketing year dropped an additional 65 million bushels, to 4.658 billion bushels, on lower beginning stocks. Soybean crush and export estimates for the 2018–19 marketing year increased by 20 and 45 million bushels, respectively. The USDA left the 2019–20 soybean export forecast 1.775 billion bushels and the crush forecast at 2.115 billion bushels. Ending stocks for the 2019–20 marketing year fell to 640 million bushels, down 115 million bushels from the August projection. While expectations of strong crush levels remains in place for the next marketing year, the prospects of maintaining higher soybean prices fall on exports or production issues. The recent thaw in trade negotiations between China and the U.S. came as a rare positive development this year and prompted the rally in prices last week.
Soybean exports for 2018–19 came in down approximately 390 million bushels from the previous marketing year. Exports to China, using export sales data on accumulated exports, fell 544 million bushels from the previous marketing year and 835 million bushels from the 2016–17 marketing year. At around 490 million bushels, U.S. soybean exports to China have not been this low since the 2006–07 marketing year. The recent announcement of lower tariffs on soybeans and pork look to support soybean prices, but clarity on the level of tariff reductions and a guarantee of following through by Chinese buyers remain lacking. For the current marketing year through September 5, outstanding sales and accumulated exports total 39.3 million bushels. Recent reports place Chinese purchases in the range of 29.5 million bushels (804 thousand metric tons). Additional purchases may total between 37 – 110 million bushels. This amount of buying remains a long way from the levels of export needed to support prices in the long-term but provides a positive development on the trade front.
New agreements with Argentina and Russia on meal imports combined with an expanded emphasis to rebuilding the hog herd decimated by African swine fever point towards China preparing for an extended fight in the trade war. Additionally, Chinese soybean production sits at a forecast level of 628 million bushels, up 8 percent from last year. The lull in the trade fight may allow China to backfill soybeans and pork to alleviate domestic pressures and settle in for a protracted battle. While Chinese buying of South American soybeans may cool in the near term, the potential for U.S. soybean exports to remain at reduced levels from pre-trade war totals in the 2019–20 marketing year continues as a high probability. Soybean production prospects in South America will continue to be crucial over the next few months, particularly if the trade war rekindles.
The forecast of South American production for the 2019–20 marketing year came in at 7.03 billion bushels, up 2.4 percent from last year’s estimate. The projected size of the Brazilian soybean crop increased by 220 million bushels to a production level of 4.52 billion bushels. The soybean production forecast for Argentina decreased 84 million bushels from last year’s estimate to 2.032 billion bushels. Some early season dryness in southern Brazil and Argentina merits monitoring. A continuation of the current dryness may delay planting in some areas. However, it remains too early to forecast any definitive change in soybean production in those regions.
If production issues do not materialize, the status of the trade war will be paramount. Current U.S. crop prospects point to maintaining some of the recent price gains. A failure of trade negotiations in October may push prices back to ranges seen in early September. Marketing soybeans on price rallies associated with trade negotiations and weather may be prudent. The uncertainty related to production levels and trade remains exceptionally high.
The agricultural sector is caught up in a storm of change. Political and economic forces have been squeezing trade on the global front and U.S. farmers have been leaning into the winds. We take up a few of these topics in this edition of the WILLAg Newsletter.
Trade with China
Profile of USTR Lighthizer
USDA Ag Outlook Forum
Corn Acreage in 2019
Expected Corn vs Soybean Returns
2018 Ethanol Plant Losses
We’ll also explore these topics, marketing prospects, the price of farmland, and the weather during our March 5 All Day Ag Outlook. Hopefully, you can join us at the Beef House in Covington, Indiana. The cost is just $30 and includes Beef House coffee and rolls in the morning and Beef House lunch at the noon hour.
Tickets are available online or by calling 800–898–1065.
Hope to See You There!
Todd E. Gleason, Farm Broadcaster
University of Illinois Extension | WILLAg.org
Trade with China Friday the Chinese trade delegation gathered in the Oval Office with President Trump. A letter from President Xi was read out loud. It urged a continued push toward a final trade deal. The only firm detail to come out of the week’s worth of talks in Washington was a commitment to purchase 10mmt of soybeans. USDA issued an official release on the announcement. It did not include a timeline for the purchases. CNBC reported the Chinese had offered to guarantee purchases of $1.2 trillion dollars of U.S. goods. Again, there was no timeline issued and this point has not been confirmed by any other outlet, the White House, or the Chinese.
During the week the trade discussions in Washington, D.C. pointed to five MOU’s. These Memorandums of Understanding included one on agriculture and were how U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer had decided to break down the issues in order to tackle them; agriculture, non-tariff barriers, services, technology transfer & intellectual property.
President Trump during the Oval Office meeting Friday pushed aside the MOU’s. He interrupted Trade Representative Lighthizer in front of the Chinese. Lighthizer was trying to explain how the MOUs would build the foundation of a trade deal. Mr. Trump stopped him and said, “I disagree. I think that a memorandum of understanding is not a contract to the extent that we want.” Lighthizer agreed that the term MOU would not be used again.
The important point in this exchange is likely not the MOU discussion. The President interrupted and corrected his lead trade negotiator in front of the Chinese delegation. Clearly, if a trade deal is to be struck it can only be done one-on-one between Presidents Trump and Xi. They may meet next month at Mar-A-Lago.
Mr. Trump has long focused on closing the trade gap with China. The other issues have not been of very much importance to him although he does mention China stealing and intellectual property rights. A trade deal with China is one of the President’s campaign promises. The dazzling $1.2 trillion number CNBC reported might be very enticing to a man who has had a habit of fulfilling his campaign promises.
If it is completed in this fashion, without enforcement mechanisms or real intellectual property rights protections, then as President Trump has said recently Democrats won’t go along. Republicans are likely to stay mum as the deal sets idle in Congress and simply becomes a presidential election year rallying cry. Presidents negotiate trade deals. Congress approves them.
Profile of USTR Lighthizer
NPR profiled Trade Representative Lighthizer this week. Please take six minutes to listen. It’ll be worth your while to know a whole lot more about the man leading the trade negotiations with China.
USDA Ag Outlook Forum This week USDA put on its 95th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. It provides some initial numbers the trade uses to project the 2019 growing season into the markets until official USDA reports are issued. The first supply and demand report for the 2019/20 growing season will be issued in May. The March 29 Prospective Plantings report will provide survey results of what farmers think their acreage mix will look like this year. Here you will find some of the powerpoint slides U.S.D.A. Chief Economist Robert Johansson presented in the opening session and the full supply and demand tables presented Friday morning.
You may watch the full opening session of the 2019 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum. It took place in Washington, D.C. February 21 and 22.
The number of acres of corn planted this spring will be a key factor in determining where the price of corn goes. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs took up the issue in this week’s farmdocDaily article.
He starts with a historical graph. It shows the principal crop acres in the United States and how those have changed since 1997. Both corn and soybean acreage have increased. Combined they’re up about 10 percent over the past two decades.
Illinois’ Todd Hubbs uses that history to help put the number or corn and soybeans acres into perspective, “When we look at the harvest month corn to soybean futures price ratio this year it has been about 2.37. There is a definite signal in this graph from about 2006 to 2018 that if you are above 2.4 in that ratio, there will be less corn acreage. If you are below 2.3 there will be more corn acreage. We are, today, sitting right in between those. We’ve seen problems with field work in large parts of the corn belt. We’ve seen fertilizer and other input costs go up on corn. So, the idea that we are going to see a massive increase in corn acreage could happen, but under the current price structure we might not see the kind of corn acreage we think we are going to see.”
Hubbs says he used the 2019–20 futures prices to forward calculate a seasons average cash price for new crop corn. His calculation points to $3.81 per bushel. He then figured a stocks to use ratio that would fit that number, “I think an 11% stocks to use ratio in 2019–2020 would give us $3.81. If consumption is constant at 14.8 billion bushels from this marketing year to the next, that would put corn acreage around 91.7 million at a national trend line yield of 174.6 bushels to the acre.”
Finally, Hubbs says there isn’t a lot of weather premium priced into new crop corn futures. He also says there isn’t much of premium built in for a possible trade deal with China. Hubbs thinks that may be just as bullish for corn as it is for soybeans. Right now he thinks the 2.37 soybean/corn ratio feels high if the expectation is for a substantial increase in corn acreage.
Two factors have changed between the planning periods in 2018 and 2019. First, expected soybeans prices are lower in 2019 as compared to 2018. A reasonable way of forming expectations of cash prices at harvest is to use current bid prices for fall delivery of grain. In 2018, fall delivery prices for soybeans in the month of February averaged about $9.80 in East-Central Illinois. In 2019, fall delivery prices are roughly $.75 per bushel less at $9.05 (see Table 1). At the same time, fall delivery prices for corn are roughly the same at $3.70 per bushel. An $.75 decline in soybean price reduces expected soybean returns by $45 per acre given a soybean yield of 60 bushels per acre ($45 = .75 lower price x 60 bushels yield).
Second, costs have increased, with a primary contributor being increases in nitrogen fertilizer prices. Throughout much of 2018, anhydrous ammonia prices were in the low $500 per ton range (see Table 2). So far in 2019, anhydrous ammonia prices have averaged $607 per ton in January and $613 in February (see Table 2). Fall applications of nitrogen were limited in 2018 due to wet soil conditions, leading many farmers to have to price nitrogen in 2019. These farmers likely will pay around $100 per ton more for anhydrous ammonia in 2019 as compared to 2018. If 220 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are applied per acre, leading to an application of 180 pounds of elemental N (180 = 220 pounds x .82 N analysis of anhydrous ammonia), nitrogen fertilizer costs would increase in 2019 over 2018 levels by $11 per acre ($100 price increase per ton x 220 pounds of anhydrous ammonia per acre / 2000 pounds per ton).
The decrease in soybean price increases the relative profitability of corn. The increase in nitrogen fertilizer price decreases the relative profitability of corn, partially offsetting the impacts if the soybean price increase.
2019 Corn and Soybean Budgets
Table 3 shows 2019 corn and soybean budgets for high-productivity farmland in central Illinois (see farmdoc for 2019 Crop Budgets). These budgets incorporate price and cost changes between 2018 and 2019. Two notes about these budgets:
Yields are 213 bushels per acre for corn-after-corn and 63 bushels per acre for soybeans-after-corn. These are trend yields. In recent years, yields in Illinois have been above trend. Corn yields averaged 20 bushels above trend from 2014 to 2018 (farmdoc daily, January 3, 2018) while soybean yields have averaged 6.5 bushels above trend (farmdoc daily, December 11, 2018).
Prices used in budgets are $3.60 per bushel for corn and $8.50 per bushel for soybeans. The corn price is near fall delivery bids while the budgeted soybean price is about $.55 per bushel below the fall delivery bid. The lower budgeted soybean price reflects a general pessimism about soybean prices resulting from expected large supplies relative to demand (see farmdoc daily, January 28, 2019). This lower soybean price will decrease soybean profitability relative to corn, suggesting more of a shift to corn than a higher soybean price.
Operator and land returns are $188 per acre for corn and $180 per acre for soybeans, suggesting that corn will be more profitable than soybeans. However, this difference in profitability does not suggest a large shift in acres to corn. Most farms in central Illinois have a corn-soybean rotation, necessitating a move to corn-after-corn to grow more corn. Corn-after-corn returns are projected at $137 per acre, which are less than the $180 per acre soybean-after-corn return. These lower corn-after-corn returns suggest maintaining a corn-soybean rotation.
Other Budget Values Operator and land returns shown in Table 3 were recalculated for two different scenarios. First, a $9.00 soybean price was used to calculate soybean returns. The $9.00 price is close to fall bids. Given that corn prices do not change, operator and land returns for corn remain the same as those shown in Table 3:
corn-after-soybeans: $188 per acre, and
corn-after-corn: $137 per acre,
while soybean returns increase to:
soybeans-after-corn: $211 per acre, and
soybeans-after-two-years-corn: $229 per acre.
As would be expected, this price scenario increases soybean profitability relative to corn. Current forward bids do not suggest a shift to corn from a profitability standpoint.
The second scenario maintains the corn and soybean prices at $3.60 and $8.50, respectively, but increases corn yields by 20 bushels per acre and soybean yields by 6 bushels per acre. This scenario reflects a situation where budgets are more optimistic than trend yields due to high yields in recent years. In this case, operator and land returns are:
corn-after-soybeans (233 bushels per acre): $260 per acre
corn-after-corn (223 bushels per acre): $209 per acre
soybeans-after-corn (69 bushels per acre): $231 per acre
soybeans-after-two-years-corn (71 bushels per acre):$248 per acre
Higher yields increase returns and also increase the relative profitability of corn. However, corn-after-scorn is less profitable than soybeans-after-corn. These projections do not suggest that growing more corn would be more profitable than maintaining soybean acres given that both crops have above trend yields at 2013–2018 levels.
Summary and Conclusions
Current fall delivery prices do not suggest that switching to more corn away from soybeans will result in higher profitability on high-productivity farmland in central Illinois. Due to high relatively corn yields, central Illinois is one of the most profitable areas to grow corn relative to soybeans, If central Illinois budgets do not suggest a switch to corn, budgets in less productive areas likely will not suggest a shift from soybeans to corn.
University of Illinois Agricultural Economist and noted ethanol industry specialist Scott Irwin wrote an article detailing the financial losses the industry experienced last year. Use the link above to read the full article. Here’s the paragraph Irwin penned on the potential implications for ethanol going forward.
“The ethanol industry in 2018 experienced its first losing year since 2012, thereby ending a run of five consecutive years of positive returns. The estimated loss for a representative Iowa ethanol plant in 2018 was -$2.2 million. While large, the 2018 loss was still far less than the -$6.7 million loss in 2012. The evidence points to overproduction as the driving force behind the low prices and financial losses experienced by ethanol producers during 2018. The fortunes of the U.S. ethanol industry are unlikely to improve until production and use are better balanced. This will require shuttering some production capacity, additional demand, or some combination of the two. The most optimistic scenario is additional demand for U.S. ethanol exports as part of a trade deal with China.” - Scott Irwin, University of Illinois
Q How confident are you that it will be finished by March 1? Or are you considering extending that deadline?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they are very complex talks. They’re going very well. We’re asking for everything that anybody has ever even suggested. These are not just, you know, “let’s sell corn or let’s do this.” It’s going to be selling corn but a lot of it – a lot more than anyone thought possible. And I think the talks are going very well – with China, you’re referring to?
THE PRESIDENT: And the talks are going very well.
Our group just came back and now they’re coming here. I can’t tell you exactly about timing, but the date is not a magical date. A lot of things can happen.
The real question will be: Will we raise the tariffs? Because they automatically kick in to 25 percent as of – on $200 billion worth of goods that they send. So I know that China would like not for that to happen. So I think they’re trying to move fast so that doesn’t happen. But it’s – we’ll see what happens.
I can only say that the talks with China on trade have gone very, very well. In the meantime, our economy is very strong. We’re doing well.
I don’t know if you noticed, but deficits seem to be coming down. And last month it was reported, and everybody was surprised, but I wasn’t surprised. We’re taking in a lot of money coming into our Treasury from tariffs and various things, including the steel dumping. And our steel companies are doing really well. Aluminum companies also. So we’re very happy about that.
I think that it’s – they’ll be coming very shortly. They’re going to have very detailed discussions on subjects that have never really been even discussed by people that sat in this chair and they should have been. Very important subjects. And I think we’re doing very well. Okay?
The USDA finally released a set of highly anticipated reports on Friday. The results projected lower ending stocks for corn and soybeans during this marketing year. Despite lower ending stock forecasts, the results disappointed and produced a somewhat bearish outlook. The following discussion recaps developments in corn and soybean crop fundamentals coming out of the reports and price implications moving forward.
Corn ending stock projections for the 2018–19 marketing year came in at 1.735 billion bushels, down 46 million bushels from the December forecast. Reduced corn production in 2018 drove ending stocks lower despite a 165 million bushel reduction in total use during the marketing year. Corn production is down 1.4 percent from the November forecast at 14.4 billion bushels. The harvested acreage estimate of 81.7 million acres is down from the November forecast of 81.8 million acres. Average corn yield of 176.4 bushels per acre is 2.5 bushels lower than the November forecast. December 1 corn stocks came in at 11.952 billion bushels. Total disappearance came in near 4.62 billion bushels during the first quarter of the marketing year, up from last year’s first quarter use by approximately 280 million bushels. Despite the lower domestic supply numbers and stronger first quarter use, lower consumption forecasts in key categories provide little support for corn prices.
The WASDE report forecast for U.S. corn during 2018–19 lowered corn use projections for feed and residual use, ethanol crush, and other food and industrial uses. At 5.375 billion bushels, the projection for corn feed use and residual moved lower by 125 million bushels. The ethanol use forecast decreased by 25 million bushels to 5.575 billion bushels. The lower ethanol use reflected the slowing ethanol production levels over the last month. Food, seed, and industrial use other than ethanol saw the consumption forecast lowered 15 million bushels on reduced corn use for high fructose corn syrup, glucose, and dextrose. Corn export forecasts maintained the 2.45 billion bushels forecast in December. The potential for increased corn usage seems increasingly dependent on continued economic growth and the resolution of the current trade impasse.
World ending stocks for corn increased by almost 40 million bushels from December forecasts. The increase focused on stronger production in key growing areas. In particular, Argentine corn production forecasts totaled 1.81 billion bushels, up from last year’s 1.26 billion bushels. Brazil’s corn production forecast stayed at 3.72 billion bushels this year. In total, Brazil and Argentina production forecasts exceed 2017–18 production estimates by 1.04 billion bushels. Projections of corn exports from Argentina and Brazil sit at an additional 492 million bushels each above last marketing year. Given the increase in South American production, the evolution of crop conditions in the region bears monitoring as we move into 2019.
The forecast for soybean ending stocks fell to 910 million bushels. Despite the 45 million bushel reduction to ending stocks, the current projection remains record high. Soybean production came in 56 million bushels lower than the November forecast at 4.54 billion. The harvested acreage estimate of 88.1 million acres is down from the November forecast of 88.3 million acres. Average soybean yield of 51.6 bushels per acre is 0.5 bushels lower than the November forecast. While the expected reduction in soybean production materialized, consumption continues to exhibit strong crush levels and weak exports this marketing year.
The WASDE report increased the soybean crush forecast by 10 million bushels to 2.09 billion bushels. The change in the crush projection reflects strong crush numbers through January. Soybean exports saw the forecast lowered by 25 million bushels to 1.875 billion bushels. Considerable uncertainty remains in export potential in 2019 as the sporadic nature of trade talks with China unfold. Total use fell by 15 million bushels on weaker export projections to 4.092 billion bushels. The consumption for this marketing year holds the potential for deterioration if the trade war escalates and increased competition out of South America materializes.
World production forecasts for the marketing year decreased by 301million bushels to 13.26 billion bushels on the smaller U.S. and Brazilian crops. The Brazilian soybean production forecast decreased by 183.72 million bushels over the December forecast to 4.3 billion bushels. Reports out of Brazil indicate this number may fall further before the final crop estimate is complete. The Argentinian soybean production forecast fell slightly to 2.02 billion bushels on reduced acreage. The Brazilian soybean export forecast dropped by 55 million bushels reflecting the decreased crop production levels. Forecasts for Brazil and Argentina soybean exports sit at 3.15 billion bushels over the marketing year, up from last marketing year’s estimate of 2.88 billion bushels.
While the ending stock projections for both crops fell, the USDA maintained price projections for the marketing year at the December mid-point ranges for corn and soybeans at $3.60 and $8.60 respectively. Barring a resolution to the trade issues with China or a significant deterioration in the South American crop, soybean prices are untenable at current levels. Corn prices appear set to remain flat and range bound until the March Prospective Planting reports provide an initial indication of crop acreage in 2019.
China, the number one destination for all U.S. soybeans, has stopped buying because of the President’s trade policies. Normally those bushels would be exported via the PNW (the Pacific Northwest) grain export terminals. That gate has closed says NDSU’s Frayne Olson and now all those bushels are expected to try and move through the other export gate at the Port of New Orleans.
Olson says “The challenge we have in the soybean market is that the basis levels are trying to choke off the inflow of grain. Local basis is all about what’s the inflow rate versus the outflow rate. The problem is our out-flow rate is very slow. So, the local basis level is going to continue to fall until it chokes off that inflow and where that magic number depends upon where you are.”
Fall 2019 Soybean Basis
If you look at a fall 2018 map of soybean prices across the United State you can see how grain flow is backing up into the St. Louis export terminals. The PNW can handle about 25 train loads of soybeans a day. St. Louis can manage 5. Because of this, cash prices from the Dakotas all the way to Illinois River - it feeds the export market & St. Louis - are miserably low. Those farmers east of the Illinois River are impacted, too. If the map includes Canadian export terminals you can see that farmers in far western North Dakota are getting a $1.90 a bushel less for their soybeans than their counterparts near London, Ontario. Farmers in parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio are getting about 60 cents less.
Sign up for the trade and tariff compensation package from the United State Department of Agriculture is open. Todd Gleason has more on how and when farmers and landlords should fill out the paperwork.
The Trump Administration’s has a $12 billion dollar plan to compensate farmers for damages done so far by the trade dispute with China and other nations. Here’s what’s known, so far, about how the plan will work.
The largest part of that money will be paid out to soybean producers, though direct payments will also be made for other commodities including corn, wheat, sorghum, cotton, dairy, and pork. USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson told reporters on the line the initial damage calculation has already been made, “We’ve calculated what the damage is to producers facing these illegal tariff actions. We are working out the specific details and will be working it out as a rule making action in a couple of weeks and that will have our estimated rates. As the Secretary mentioned, this will be playing out over time and we do look to allowing for the Administration to successfully negotiate a deal here with our trading partners. And so, the program will be flexible to allow that.”
Again, Johansson says the financial damage part has already been calculated, though he also says specific details have yet to be published and or worked out. Should the trade disputes be settled the program is meant to flexible.
This was not said, but it makes sense that a farmer who harvests and sells soybeans prior to the settlement would get a payment, one who sells after the settlement may not.
Assistant Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, Brad Karmen says FSA, the Farm Service Agency, will be responsible for the sign up, “So we are going to allow producers, we are talking about a September sign-up, and it will probably go for many months. So, producers will have time to visit there FSA count y office. And in order to run this program we need producers to harvest their crop. So, producers that harvest their crop, like wheat for example which in on the list and many of those producers have harvested already. They may be able to get their payment earlier than somebody like corn or soybeans that doesn’t harvest until October. But we need producers to harvest so that we know their production in order to calculate a payment.”
Recapping then… the the bulk of the $12 billion dollars is intended to compensate soybean farmers for damages to their market. The initial calculation has, it appears, already been made but may be tweaked. Sign-up will be done at local FSA offices. Payments will begin once producers provide actual production figures to the FSA. And, the program may change or end prior to payments being made should the Administration settle trade disputes.
As of July 12th, U.S. farmers were expected to produce 4.3 billion bushels of soybeans this season.
The President has been tweeting about agriculture. He says the potential deal with China will result in “massive” export increases for farm commodities. Most have taken this to mean, at a minimum, that the flow of soybeans will be increased. University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs has been pondering the implications and the deal.
Todd Hubbs specializes is row crop commodity marketing at the University of Illinois. You may read his thoughts on marketing soybeans in today’s (this week’s) post to the farmdocDaily website.
President Trump has asked the Secretary of Agriculture to protect U.S. farmers from the trade dispute with China. However, there aren’t many options for Sonny Perdue.
Last week Sonny Perdue was on the road for his second RV tour of farm country. His first tour was last summer. That’s when he told producers he would be their salesman to the world. Now he’s being asked to be their protector in the face of trade restrictions, some in place others proposed, as President Trump sets about rectifying what he sees as unfair trade with China. However, Perdue isn’t saying what he’ll do for farmers and there may be a good reason that’s the case says University of Illnois Ag Policy Specialist Jonathan Coppess, “There are not a lot options for the Secretary when it comes to the covered commodities.”
Typically USDA lawyers will explain there is flexibility in the original CCC charter act and the general powers to improve prices. Yet, because Congress has stepped in and directed spending for commodities via programs like ARC and PLC, the Secretary’s administrative powers are limited.
Most of the heavy lifting to protect farmers from any trade war blowback then, says Coppess, would need to be done by congress.
The first week of April has been tumultuous for American agriculture. Todd Gleason talks with Jonathan Coppess about how the Trump Administration has been handling trade with China, the NAFTA negotiations, and biofuels.
. @SecretarySonny hopes agricultural commodities don't become the "tip of the retaliation spear" in a tit for tat trade dispute. He says countries should negotiate exemptions case by case with the Trump Administration.
China purchases two-thirds of the soybeans traded on the planet.
Over the next ten years, USDA expects global soybean trade to increase by 25% and that Chinese purchases will account for 85% of the increase. The numbers were presented at the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Washington D.C., (today, Thursday, Feb 23, 2017) by USDA Chief Economist Rob Johannson. He says the projections are based on the assumption the number of middle-class households in China will double to nearly 250 million by the year 2024, “Those households will start demanding more meat, protein, and processed foods in their diet. And looking to other potential markets that could provide significant new demands for food commodities, we note that the number of middle-class households in India is expected to triple by 2024.”
Johannson says the United States has not had nearly as much success in opening new markets in India as it has in China. He thinks poultry, eggs, fruit, and milk have the greatest potential. The estimated annual growth in poultry meat, he explains, could exceed eight percent. That kind of livestock trade across the planet the Chief Economist explains will require grain and oilseed farmers to expand acreage, "Based on projected yield growth, the world will need to allocate about 50 million more acres of corn, wheat, and soybeans at U.S. productivity growth levels to meet the increase in trade demand.
The United States says Johannson is expected to remain the world’s largest exporter of corn over the next ten years with the U.S. share between 38 and 39 percent. Brazil is expected to remain the world’s largest soybean exporter with its share of exports growing to over 50 percent by the year 2026.
There are two trade negotiations under consideration in the United States at this time. We often hear about TPP, or the Trans Pacific Partnership. The other is called T-TIP. Todd Gleason has more on the European perspective of this contentious deal.
Those listening to the markets every day know there is a big difference between the number of acres the trade thinks will be planted to soybeans and the number of acres USDA is so far projecting. These aren’t as far apart as you might think and there may even be some positive wiggle room in them.
The trade has long thought U.S. farmers will plant about 86 million acres of soybeans. USDA thinks they’ll plant 83 and half million. Because USDA is using