The final report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the 2009 corn and soybean harvest is one for the record books. Despite poor planting conditions, a cool, wet growing season, and an abysmal harvest that still sees mostly corn standing in fields, American farmers shattered records for both yield per acre and total production.
Crop production totals were well above most analysts' expectations.
"Reports should be viewed as bearish for corn, soybeans and also wheat," says John Sanow, Telvent DTN grains analyst. “But the numbers will be subject to lots of questions.”
In the January crop production report, USDA estimates farmers averaged 165.2 bushels of corn per acre, up from its previous estimate of 162.9 and shattering the previous record of 160.4 in 2004. Notably, average yields are more than 11 bushels per acre higher (7%) than last year’s average yield.
In addition, this record yield helped produce the largest corn crop ever — 13.2 billion bushels. All of this occurred despite one of the slowest and most challenging harvests on record.
“The unparalleled productivity of America's farmers continues to amaze even the most skeptical of critics,” says Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen. “Despite unfavorable weather conditions from start to finish, farmers produced considerably more corn than the food, feed and fuel markets are demanding.
"There can be no question that American farmers have both the capability and the can-do attitude to feed the world while simultaneously helping reduce our nation’s reliance on imported oil.”
Dinneen also points out that the record 2009 crop was produced on 7 million less acres than were required to produce the second-largest crop on record (13.0 billion bushels) in 2007.
According to the crop report, soybean production is pegged at a record-high 3.361 billion bushels, up from the last USDA projection of 3.319 billion bushels and up 8% from last year.
The USDA said it will re-survey corn and soybean acreage, yield, production and stocks and may release updated forecasts based on updated information in its March 2010 report because of late harvests in several states.
The USDA also raised soybean exports 35 million bushels and the crush 15 million bushels. Soybean ending stocks are estimated at 245 million bushels, which is above trade expectations of 235 million bushels, but down 10 million bushels from the December USDA report.
“This report is not really a surprise," says Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) president Delbert Christensen. "The end of harvest season weather was good for soybeans. The good news is that farmers this fall have had opportunities to sell soybeans at strong prices.
“Additional good news is that we continue to see very strong export numbers. China’s economy in particular had amazing 8% growth over the last two quarters in one of the toughest economic years since the Great Depression, and that will most likely continue to adjust upwards in 2010. Continued strong international demand and some signs of gradual improvement in the domestic livestock demand could impact final numbers.”
“The big question remaining is whether the South American crop is as large as many are predicting," says ISA CEO Kirk Leeds. "They are entering a key period in their growing season and weather can still have a big impact over the next 30 to 60 days.
“As we’ve been saying consistently, these times require a balanced approach by soybean checkoff organizations. We must continue to raise yields and decrease costs and, at the same time, build short-term and long-term demand."