Corn, Soy Crops Seen Below USDA Forecast After Farm Tours

Corn and soybean production in the U.S. probably will be smaller than the government predicted after planting delays and unusually cool, dry weather stunted growth, according to the Professional Farmers of America.

The corn harvest will be 13.46 billion bushels, less than the 13.763 billion estimated this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cedar Falls, Iowa-based Pro Farmer said today in an e-mailed report, after a four-day tour this week of 2,600 fields in seven Midwest states. Soybean output will be 3.158 billion bushels, below the USDA forecast of 3.255 billion. The U.S. is the world’s largest grower of both crops.

After a wet May and June delayed planting, the USDA cut its soy-crop forecast by 4.8 percent on Aug. 12 and reduced its corn estimate for a third straight month. July was the 20th coldest in 119 years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, the top U.S. grower, National Weather Service data show. Soybean futures are up 14 percent from an 18-month low on Aug. 7, and corn rose 5.4 percent from a 35-month low on Aug. 13.

“Both the corn and soybean forecasts were a little smaller than people expected and lend additional strength to prices with forecasts for hot, dry weather next week,” said Richard Feltes, the vice president of research for R.J. O’Brien & Associates in Chicago.

Acreage Cut

Pro Farmer said corn yields would be 154.1 bushels an acre, 0.2 percent less than the government forecast. Harvested acreage was cut 1.8 million acres from 89.135 million estimated by the USDA on Aug. 12. Soybean yields will be 41.8 bushels an acre, down 1.8 percent from the USDA forecast, and harvested area was reduced 800,000 acres from the government estimate of 76.378 million. The USDA is scheduled to release updated production forecasts on Sept. 12.

“The next 45 days of weather will have as much impact on final yields as all the weather we’ve had leading up to the tour,” Pro Farmer said in a report to clients this afternoon. “There is potential for a good crop, but there’s also significant risk.”

The cool, wet planting season and below-average summer temperatures are similar to 1996 and 1908, when freezing temperatures in late September or early October damaged crops, Dan Hicks, a meteorologist for Freese-Notis Weather, said in a client report on Aug. 21.

Heat Needed

U.S. crops need heat, rain and a late-arriving frost to reach maturity, Nick Hanson, field agronomist for the Pioneer seed-making unit at DuPont Co., said in Spencer, Iowa.

Soybean-pod counts per 3 square feet in four of the top five producing states, including Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, are down from the three-year average, Pro Farmer data this week show. The growth stage in Iowa, the largest U.S. grower, was measured this week at 8.9 percent below the prior three-year average,according to Pro Farmer.

“The soybean yields are slipping daily with the hot, dry weather in locations that missed the rain this week,” Feltes said.

Melvin Wernimont, a farmer who attended a crop tour meeting on Aug. 21 in Spencer, Iowa, said he has never seen conditions this bad in at least two decades. He did not sow his soybean fields near Spirit Lake, Iowa, until June 10, more than three weeks later than normal, because the soils were too wet.

Prices Rebound

Soybean futures for November delivery, after the harvest rose 3.2 percent to close at $13.28 a bushel today on the Chicago Board of Trade, while corn futures for December delivery advanced 1.2 percent to $4.70 a bushel.

Prices slumped into a bear market earlier this year on expectations that the U.S. would collect record harvests in 2013. The USDA cut its soybean-production forecast this month by 4.8 percent, and has reduced its corn estimate by 2.7 percent since May.

“There is more variability in corn and soybeans than I expected before this week’s tour,” Bennett Meier, a New York-based market analyst for Morgan Stanley, said in an interview in Rochester, Minnesota, yesterday. “The crop is immature and at increased risk of damage from freezing temperatures and crop losses” in September or early October, he said.

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