An ag economist on the University of Illinois campus is continuing his calls for farmers and landowners to lower cash rents.
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This year the United States Department of Agriculture expects about one-point-eight billion bushels of soybeans will be used within U.S. borders. This is more than last year and it appear USDA is on target with its projection. The pace of domestic crush has steadily picked up as the fiscal year has passed. University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good says the pace needs to pick up a bit more to make the target.
Quote Summary - To reach the USDA projection, the crush during the last four months of the marketing year needs to exceed that of a year earlier by 7.7 percent.The NOPA crush estimate for May is scheduled for release on June 15, and that’ll offer more insight into domestic usage. The other primary point of usage is the export market for soybeans.
Quote Summary - The USDA projects that U.S. soybean exports during the current marketing year will reach a record 1.8 billion bushels, 9.3 percent more than the previous record of last year. With about 14.6 weeks remaining in the marketing year, cumulative USDA export inspection estimates have reached 1.722 billion bushels. For the first seven months of the marketing year, export inspections tracked Census Bureau export estimates very closely. To reach 1.8 billion bushels for the year, exports during the final weeks need to total about 78 million bushels, or about 5.35 million bushels per week.The last five weeks have seen exports above 10 million bushels each. It very likely, thinks Darrel Good, that USDA’s export projection for soybeans will be easily met. This brings him to the ending stocks figure, or the number of bushels to be leftover at the end of the fiscal year in September. That number will be calculated and it could result in an adjustment of the size of last year’s crop, and then there is this year’s crop.
Quote Summary - Until very recently, few concerns have been expressed about the 2015 soybean production season. Planting has proceeded at a pace that exceeds the previous 5-year average pace and expectations have been for acreage to exceed intentions reported in the USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report. The recent weather pattern, however, has generated a few issues. In particular, the area of extreme rainfall amounts in Texas and Oklahoma that extends into southern Kansas and parts of Arkansas have raised a few concerns about the timeliness of planting and the potential for some prevented planting. The focus is on Kansas due to the combination of the slow pace of planting (17 percent as of May 17) and the magnitude of soybean acreage (3.8 million) intended to be planted in that state.For the U.S as a whole, there is some measurable yield loss as the percentage of the crop planted after May 30 increases. For the period from 1986 through 2014, the percentage of the crop planted after May 30 has ranged from nine percent (2012) to 66 percent (1995) and averaged 34 percent. With 45 percent of the crop reported planted as of May 17, the percentage of the crop planted after May 30 this year will not likely exceed the average of the previous 29 years due to the rapid pace of planting in northern growing areas. The impact, if any writes Darrel Good in his Weekly Outlook posted online to Farm Doc Daily, of the extreme wetness on the magnitude of planted acreage of soybeans should be revealed in the USDA’s June 30 Acreage report.
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Todd Gleason talks with University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey about cash rents. As it stands today farmers on highly productive land in central Illinois are likely to loose about $70 for every cash rented acre planted to corn.
by Gary Schnitkey
Univeristy of Illinois
Surveys conducted by the Chicago Fed and the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers indicate that 2015 cash rents have decreased between $20 and $25 per acre from 2014 levels. If these reductions occur, the majority of farmers still will have negative returns from cash rent farmland given current corn and soybean price levels. At a $3.75 per bushel corn price and a $9.50 soybean price, cash rents need to decrease from 2014 averages by around $70 per acre before farmer return is zero. Even given mid-$4.00 prices for corn, farmers will not have positive returns given cash rents at 2014 averages.
Operator and Land Returns
Table 1 shows estimates of 2015 operator and land returns. Operator and land returns represent the returns that can be split between the landowner and farmer. If operator and land returns are $300 per acre and cash rent is $250 per acre, the farmer will have a $50 per acre return. Operator and land returns are based on revenues, yields, and costs shown in the 2015 Crop Budgets and are averaged over the corn and soybean crops.
Operator and land returns are given for four different regions: Central Illinois with high-productivity farmland (Central-High), Northern Illinois (North), Central Illinois with low productivity farmland (Central-Low) and Southern (South) Illinois. In Table 1, regions are arrayed from the highest yielding on the left (Central-High) to the lowest yield region on the right (South). Operator and land returns decrease with lower yields. Even though these are Illinois specific regions, returns shown in Table 1 are generalizable to a wider geographical area.
There are five price scenarios in Table 1. The first is a $3.75 per bushel corn price and $9.50 per bushel soybean price, slightly above current bids for delivery of 2015 grain. These prices are used to determine crop revenue given the expected yields for each region. For example, the expected yields for the Central-High region are 198 bushels per acre for corn and 57 bushels for soybeans (see Table 1). Gross revenue also include ARC/PLC and crop insurance payments, both of which decrease with higher prices.
At a $3.75 corn price and a $9.50 soybean price, the operator and land return for the Central-High region is $226 per acre (see Table 1). The average cash rent in 2014 is $293 per acre, implying a farmer loss of $67 per acre ($226 operator and land return - $293 cash rent). Other regions have similar levels of loss: -$77 per acre for the North region ($188 operator and land return - $265 cash rent), -$73 in the Central-Low region ($170 operator and land return - $243 cash rent), and -$71 in the South region ($92 operator and land return - $163 cash rent). Note that $20 to $25 per acre decreases in 2015 cash rents do not lead to positive farmer returns given that cash rents started at average levels.
Longer-Run Price Levels
Current price levels may be below long-run prices. Previous analyses (farmdoc daily, February 27, 2013) suggest that longer run prices may be around $4.60 per bushel for corn and $10.60 for soybeans. Obviously these higher prices will result in higher operator and land returns, as is illustrated in Table 1. Take the $4.50 corn price and $11.00 soybean price. These prices give $298 per acre of operator and land return in the Central-High region. Note that the $298 operator and land return is near the 2014 cash rent of $293 per acre. At this price level, the operator and land returns for all regions are near the average 2014 cash rent levels. The nearness suggests that cash rents would need to decline if long-run prices are in the $4.50 per bushel range for corn and $11.00 per bushel range for soybeans. In the past several years, increases in cash rents likely overshot levels supported by long-run prices.
Note that the above analysis is based on non-land costs remaining at current levels of roughly $600 per acre for corn and $370 per acre for soybeans. These cost levels are at historically high levels (farmdoc daily, March 29, 2011). Decreases in fertilizer, seed, and chemical costs could reduce the need for decreases in cash rents.
Setting 2016 Cash Rents
Table 1 can be used to gain a feel for the relative size of downward pressures placed on cash rents in 2016. Given that costs do not change, operator and land returns shown in Table 1 will be accurate for 2016.
Expected 2016 commodity prices during the fall of 2015 will have a bearing on pressures place on cash rents. If corn and soybean prices respectively remain near $3.75 and $9.50 per bushel, cash rents will need to decrease by around $70 per acre from 2014 average levels before farmer returns are near zero. Obviously larger decreases would be needed before farmer returns become positive. Pressures will be reduced with higher price expectations. Take the price scenario having respective corn and soybeans prices of $4.25 and $10.50 per bushel. Under this scenario, rents would have to be decreased by $19 to $37 per acre, depending on region, from 2014 average levels to have farmer returns at $0 per acre. For farmers to have positive expected returns without cash rent of non-land costs, corn and soybean prices respectively need to be in the high-$4.00 and mid-$11.00 range.
Given current price levels, avenge cash rents levels need to decrease by over $70 per acre for farmers to have returns near zero. Continued pressures on cash rents will occur in 2016 unless significant increases in prices occur from their current levels. Unless non-land costs decrease, prices must be in the high $4.00 range before downward pressures are not placed on average cash rents.
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The black cutworm may do damage in central and northern Illinois corn fields over the Memorial Day weekend. Farmers should begin scouting soon because not all Bt corn hybrids offer adequate protection.
University of Illinois entomologist are estimating, based on black cutworm moth flights, that farmers might find the overnight work of the moth’s larval stage offspring beginning in late May. The larvae can cut a corn plant off. Farmers should scout for early feeding damage this week and next says University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Mike Gray.
Quote Summary - Growers should look for early signs of black cutworm activity. There will be small pin hole sized areas on leaves. These have been removed by very small caterpillars in the one to three instar stage. Once the caterpillars reach the fourth larval instar stage they can begin to cut plants.
Based on some heat unit calculations U of I entomologists project cutting dates will begin in Ford County (May 24), Mercer County (May 25), Lee County (May 31), Whiteside County (June 1), and Henry County (June 3) Illinois. Plants in the one to four leaf stage are most susceptible to cutting. It is important to note that not all Bt corn hybrids adequately protect against the black cutworm.
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Now that USDA has released its first official look at the balance sheet for new crop corn and soybeans, farmers are under the gun to make some marketing decisions. The easy ones are related to what’s left to sell from last year.
This week USDA estimated the average cash price farmers will receive for the coming corn crop will be fifteen cents less than last year at $3.50 a bushel. It makes the decision to sell what’s left from last year’s crop pretty easy thinks University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good.
Quote Summary - I think you just give it up, meter it out, and let it go.
Pretty much the same advice goes for old crop soybean sales.
Quote Summary - There is no opportunity at this juncture, beyond a summer weather problem, for prices to recover.
Sell old crop corn and soybeans at your discretion, but probably sooner rather than later. However, Darrel Good is much more cautious as it relates to new crop sales.
Quote Summary - Prices are low enough, certainly below the crop insurance price, and I’d bide my time on new crop corn.
He’d do pretty much the same for soybeans.
Quote Summary - Probably in the same category. You are seeing prices right down at the $9.00 level for harvest delivery, about what USDA expects for the year ahead. There is probably no urgency to get aggressive at these levels.
Again, that’s sell the old crop and stand to the sidelines on the new crop. You may read Darrel Good’s thoughts on the commodity markets each Monday afternoon on the Farm Doc Daily website.
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University of Illinois Ag Economist John Newton discusses the May 2015 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate report numbers for new and old crop corn and soybeans.
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The supply of meat in the United States is on the upswing this year. It had fallen off by about twenty pounds per person between 2007 and 2014, but now it’s making a come back says Purdue Extension Agricultural Economist Chris Hurt.
Quote Summary - USDA estimates are that per capita meat availability could surge by nearly nine pounds this year. Chicken and turkey lead the way with over five pounds of increase and pork adds an impressive increase of near four pounds per person. This means that the meat industry in one year has restored about 45 percent of the lost meat availability from 2007 to 2014.
This calculation does not include any reduced availability due to the Avian Influenza outbreak. It is likely to reduce total poultry (chicken and turkey) meat production in 2015.
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More often than not when the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard is discussed people are thinking about corn based ethanol or other feedstocks that can produce ethanol. However, when U.S. EPA finally releases the RFS mandates it may be the biodiesel industry that pays the most attention says University of Illinois Ag Economist Scott Irwin.
Irwin :36 …to find out what happens.
Quote Summary - The industry for which the RFS is really a life or death matter is biodiesel. Because if the EPA would choose to go back to the RFS statutory level mandates, at least for a few years in the short run, it would launch - likely - the biggest boom in biodiesel’s history. But, if they choose to stay on the path of the proposals from 2013 it would cut the knees out from under the industry. The biodiesel industry is waiting on the edge to find out what happens.This edge made the industry unhappy with the federal government earlier this year when it opened the door for biodiesel imported from Argentina to qualify as an advanced biofuel under the U.S. RFS mandates. Scott Irwin sees this move far more favorably the industry.
Irwin :41 …outside the United States to fill the mandates.
Quote Summary - I favor the position that EPA is likely to move the mandate levels back up near or to the statutory levels this year, or at least by 2016. This would necessitate a tremendous boom in biodiesel production. It would be more than current U.S. production capacity. So, one view of the Argentine biodiesel announcement is that it is a precursor of the statutory requirements and related documentation of enough registered biodiesel both inside and outside the United States to fill the mandates.It may be, then, that the January announcement allowing Argentine biodiesel to qualify as an advanced biofuel in the United States sets the stage for U.S. EPA to follow the letter of the law as written by congress. It is not possible to do so without additional gallons of advanced fuel from some source.
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Illinois is not known as a key chicken production state. Regardless of this fact, the state’s Land Grant university is a primary player in the poultry industry. Todd Gleason has this review of ILLINOIS’ applied research prowess and its relationship to the state’s agricultural feed production history.
Farmers in the Prairie State raise corn and soybeans and they do it really well. These crops are used to feed animals and birds; chickens. Lots of chickens, but most of them are reared in other states. Much of the feed comes from Illinois and so does the research that supports the nation’s poultry industry says Ken Koelkebeck (coal-keg-beck) from the University of Illinois.
Quote Summary - One of the first things we did was to develop a specific line that allowed the color sexing of baby chicks. This was very important because it made it easy to do research. We had two breeds, back in the 1950’s, when crossed together that produced chicks that came out color sexed males or females.
All the female chicks are brown and all the male chicks are yellow. It is really hard to tell the sex of the chick otherwise. The research breed is maintained and used on campus still today.
Quote Summary - It has been very important over the last thirty or forty years. We’ve developed nutritional programs like the non-feed withdrawl molting program. The industry, after ten years of research at ILLINOIS, has adopted it as the standard method for molting laying hens. This happened starting January 1, 2006.
Today more than eighty-five percent of the commercial egg laying operations molt their hens using the University of Illinois developed method. The history of the specialized research breed along with the powerhouse production of poultry feed stocks in the state, corn and soybeans, continue to converge to make the Urbana Champaign campus one of the top five poultry research universities.
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U.S. farmers struggling to find ways to cut cost will find the price of diesel fuel somewhat comforting. It is one of their larger input costs for the production of a row crops like corn or soybeans. This year that fuel cost will be sharply lower says University of Illinois Ag Economist Gary Schnitkey.
Quote Summary - Since 2011 on through 2014 diesel fuel prices have average about $3.50 per gallon. Today’s cost is about a 36% decline. It is a significant decline in the cost of diesel fuel from the last four years.Here’s how that costs translates directly to the farm. Last year fuel cost Illinois farmers, on average, $24 per acre of corn production. A 36% drop puts that estimated cost this year at $15 per acre. It’s a nine dollar savings, but certainly not enough to really ease the coming income woes of the American corn farmer comments Schnitkey.
Quote Summary - The total cost to raise an acre of corn is about $600. So, the fuel savings is a relatively small portion of the total cost of producing corn, and for that matter soybeans in the state.Schnitkey thinks producers should certainly consider taking advantage of the diesel fuel prices today. The other two items of note related to energy costs concern drying corn in the fall and nitrogen fertilizer. The ag economist thinks drying costs should be much lower this fall. As for the cost of nitrogen fertilizer - and this would be for next year - well he says…
Quote Summary - Patients, relative to nitrogen fertilizer and buying it, might be a good thing. Because maybe someday that will come down.The cost of nitrogen fertilizer this year is actually higher than it was last year. Its primary creation cost is for natural gas.
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The beef industry stands alone in 2015 in its continued reduction in supplies available to consumers.
2014, by contrast, was a special year for the animal production industry. It set record high farm level prices for cattle, hogs, broilers, turkeys, milk and eggs. 2015 should see much lower annualized prices after the surprisingly fast expansion of the poultry, pork and dairy industries. Beef stands alone in the continuation toward lower production. This does not necessarily mean the price of beef will remain record high. Live cattle futures are suggesting a return to a more normal seasonal price pattern this year. This would mean that while beef cattle have so far traded higher than last year, that pattern would end now says Purdue University Extension Ag Economist Chris Hurt.
Hurt :26 …a couple of dollars lower than 2014.
Quote Summary - The futures tone stays weak through summer with prices falling to the middle $140s by the end of summer and then rallying to the low $150s toward the end of the year. With prices so far this year and futures estimates for the remainder of the year, finished steers would average $153, a couple of dollars lower than 2014.
That’s Chris Hurt’s view, however, USDA has a different take. Agency forecasters in the April 9 WASDE (wahz-dee) report took a much more bullish path with $163.50 at the mid-point of their annual estimated range. Also of note is that USDA analysts increased the potential range of prices as the year progresses. One reason to increase a price forecast range is because of greater uncertainty says Hurt.
Hurt :19 …with annual prices near last year’s $155.
Quote Summary - My judgement is that ultimate prices may be somewhere between these two. Current high $150s prices could drop to the very low $150s by late summer and recover to the mid-$150s by the end of the year, with annual prices near last year’s $155.
One thing seems certain, explains Chris Hurt in his May 4th article on the farmdocdaily website 2014 was an extraordinary year for the animal industries. So comparing this year’s prices to last year’s prices may bring inherent dangers. The beef industry, he says, is the only one which will not increase production this year and therefore has a reasonable chance of seeing annual price averages near 2014 levels.