In its Oct. 10 Crop Production report, the U.S.D.A. estimated U.S. 2014 corn production at 14,475 million bus, up 80 million bus from its September forecast and up 550 million bus, or 4%, from the prior record of 13,925 million bus harvested in 2013. The average yield was pegged at a record 174.2 bus an acre, up 2.5 bus from September and up 15.4 bus, or 10%, from 158.8 bus in 2013. The increase in yield was more than enough to offset an estimated 742,000-acre reduction in harvested area from September and a 4.6-million acre, or 5%, reduction from 2013.
This year’s soybean crop was estimated at 3,927 million bus, up 14 million bus from the September forecast, up 569 million bus, or 17%, from an upwardly-revised 3,358 million bus in 2013 and also up 17% from the prior record of 3,359 million bus harvested in 2009. The U.S. average soybean yield was placed at a record 47.1 bus an acre, up 0.5 bus from September and up 3.1 bus, or 7%, from 44 bus in 2013. Soybean harvested area was reduced by 655,000 acres from September, but still was 9% above 2013 harvested area as farmers opted to plant additional acres of more profitable soybeans in 2014.
“Acreage updates were made in several states following a thorough review of all available data,” the U.S.D.A. said of both the corn and soybean planted and harvested acreage estimates.
The question is: when will this year’s corn and soybean crops get out of the field and into storage bins — or in some cases, piled on the ground due to a lack of storage space for the bumper crops — or loaded onto trucks, trains and barges for shipment to feedlots, processors and export terminals?
In its latest weekly Crop Progress report, the U.S.D.A. said corn harvest as of Oct. 12 was 24% completed in the 18 largest corn producing states, well behind 43% as the 2009-13 average for the date. (The U.S.D.A. said it imputed estimates for 2013 in the five-year average because data were not available due to last year’s lapse in funding in early October). Corn in top-producing Iowa was only 10% harvested compared with 39% as the average. Harvest in the northern tier of states ranged from 2% to 7% completed compared with 22% to 32% as the average.
Harvest of more weather sensitive soybeans as of Oct. 12 was moving along somewhat better at 40% completed in the 18 largest soybean producing states, but still was lagging the five-year average of 53%, the U.S.D.A. said.
Wet weather in early October and slow-maturing crops due to late planting and a generally cool, wet growing season have stymied aggressive harvest progress.
Both corn and soybean futures prices have rallied in October, in part due to harvest delays. On Oct. 14, December corn futures prices closed at $3.57 a bu, up 11% from its Sept. 30 low, and November soybeans closed at $9.64¾ a bu, up 6% from its Sept. 26 low. While prices for both were well below their April-May highs and were expected to give back some of their recent gains, some analysts believe prices may have set their season lows in late September. But those ideas may be tested in the next couple of weeks as harvest regains traction.
Meteorologists were calling for above normal temperatures and near average rainfall in the western Corn Belt and Upper Midwest over the next week-plus. The wet eastern Corn Belt also was expected to dry out. In other words, harvest conditions were expected to improve significantly and combines should be roaring in the second half of October. Most analysts expect minimal negative impact on crop quantity due to the wet weather, although crop quality may suffer in some areas.
The prolonged harvest period may even be a blessing in disguise. With both storage space and transportation capacity inadequate to handle the onslaught of corn and soybeans, a slower start to the harvest allows time for additional grain shipping, although crop observers still fully expect storage to overflow and transportation, especially rail, to be bogged down by the record supplies.