U.S. Corn Harvest Advances, USDA Says; Soybean Ratings Gain

U.S. farmers accelerated harvesting of the corn crop last week as warmer, drier weather firmed muddy fields for heavy machinery. Soybean conditions improved.

About 15 percent of the corn was harvested as of yesterday, compared with 10 percent a week earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. About 58 percent of the crop was rated mature, up from 41 percent a week earlier and the prior five-year average of 27 percent. Approximately 52 percent of the corn was in poor or very poor condition, unchanged from a week earlier, the USDA said.

“Harvesting is moving ahead,” Tim Hannagan, a grain specialist at Alpari U.S. LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Corn yields vary widely across the Midwest and they are mostly on the low side of expectations,” after plants were damaged by the worst drought in more than 50 years, he said.

Through Sept. 7, corn futures surged 44 percent since the end of May because of the Midwest drought, prompting the United Nations last month to predict higher global food costs.

About 32 percent of the nation’s soybeans were rated good or excellent as of yesterday, up from 30 percent a week earlier, the USDA said. Approximately 4 percent of the crop was harvested. Soybeans mature later than corn.

“Late-season rains have really helped to boost soybean yield potential,” Hannagan said. “Farmers will wait to harvest soybeans until they finish collecting the corn crop.”

Crop ratings are the worst for this time of year since 1988, when corn production plunged 31 percent from a year earlier and soybeans declined 20 percent. This year, output of the grain will fall 13 percent to 10.779 billion bushels, the smallest since 2006, the USDA said Aug. 10. The soybean harvest may be 12 percent smaller at 2.692 billion bushels. The government will update its forecasts on Sept. 12.

About 45 percent of the nine-state Midwest region was in severe to exceptional drought as of Sept. 4, compared with 55 percent on Aug. 7 and 4.8 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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