April Demand Update (4/12/16)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbThe World Ag Supply and Demand Estimates update for April contained some modest changes for the crop balance sheets. For U.S. soybeans, the only changes were a 15 million bushel bump in export demand and a slight decline in seed demand, based on last month’s Prospective Plantings report. Projected soybean ending stocks were lowered to 445 million bushels, but the midpoint of the 2015/16 season-average price range remains steady at $8.75 per bushel. For U.S. corn, the adjustments were mixed. Feed demand was reduced 50 million bushels, based on the quarterly disappearance pattern from the Grain Stocks report. Corn usage for ethanol was increased 25 million bushels as ethanol production has held near record levels over the 1st three months of the calendar year. Thus, corn ending stocks were raised 25 million bushels and the midpoint of the 2015/16 season-average price range fell 5 cents to $3.55 per bushel.

World corn production for 2015/16 was increased by 3 million metric tons, with 1 million of that going to increased imports for Mexico and Southeast Asia and 2 million projected to be held in stock. China’s feed usage of corn is projected to rise by 2 million metric tons, but that increase is expected to be met by drawing down existing internal stocks. World soybean production for 2015/16 was lowered slightly as declines in Chinese and Indian production offset an increase from Argentina. Global soybean trade was raised, based on stronger exports to China, Japan, and Mexico.

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Plans for a Whole Lot of Corn (3/31/16)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbThe end of March is an active time for the crop markets and USDA. It’s when we get our first look at the 2016 crop year from the producers’ perspective with the release of USDA’s Prospective Plantings report. We also receive an update on demand via USDA’s Grain Stocks report. And as we typically see, these reports contained a few surprises to mull over as planting approaches, mainly for new crop prospects. Starting with the stocks/demand picture, the trade estimates going into the stocks report were fairly close to the USDA numbers. As of March 1, 7.81 billion bushels of corn were being held in storage. That’s 1% higher than last year at this time. Quarterly corn disappearance for the December-February time frame was 3.43 billion bushels, slightly lower than last year. Overall corn demand and usage has been relatively stable. Soybean stocks came in at 1.5 billion bushels, up 15% from last year. That is the highest soybean stock number for March since the 2006/07 crop. Quarterly soybean disappearance for the December-February time frame was 1.18 billion bushels, 1% lower than last year.  So the build-up of soybean stocks has more to do with supply than demand. In total, old crop usage turned up to be in-line with expectations.

That’s not the case with plantings and the potential for new crop production. The biggest discrepancies between trade expectations and the planting report were for corn and wheat. Projected corn plantings came in at 93.6 million acres. The trade expectation was roughly 90 million. So prospective corn plantings are 3.6 million above expectations and 5.6 million above last year. Meanwhile, projected wheat area dropped to 49.6 million acres, roughly 2 million below expectations and 5 million below last year. Soybean planted area was also down to 82.2 million acres, which was 800,000 less than expectations and 450,000 below last year. Looking at specific state projections, the boost in corn area is coming mostly from the Great Plains and Corn Belt. The largest moves are in Kansas and North Dakota, adding 650,000 acres each, as traditional wheat area heads to corn production. Illinois and Iowa are adding 400,000 corn acres each this year. Out of the 48 states listed in the corn table, only 7 are projected to have fewer corn acres than last year, with the largest reduction being 20,000 acres. The soybean planting story hinges mainly on Missouri. Missouri farmers indicated they would plant nearly one million more acres of soybeans this year, following the planting issues they had last year. Illinois and North Dakota are projected to gain significant soybean area as well.  However, many states (including Iowa) are projected to lower soybean plantings. Iowa and 9 other states are set to reduce soybean plantings by at least 100,000 acres each. Hence, despite the strong surge in area from Missouri, the national soybean planting area is projected to decline.

Given trend yields of 168 bushels per acre for corn and 46.7 bushels per acre for soybeans, the projected acreage points to another round of massive crops. Corn production would reach 14.38 billion bushels, which would be another record corn crop. Soybean production would approach 3.8 billion bushels, which would be the 3rd largest soybean crop in history. And for markets already dealing with large supplies, these prospective plantings do not help. So the markets will be looking for Mother Nature to slow the supply train down.

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Why it is not OK to use NASS yields to calculate ARC-CO payments

plastina_alejandro_2014Alejandro Plastina, ISU Extension Economist, provides explanation of the yield data used in calculating ARC-CO payments in Iowa.

On February 22 2016, the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) released the final county crop production estimates for 2015: 73 Iowa counties had higher corn yields in 2015 than in 2014, 22 had lower yields, and 2015 corn yields were not reported for Mills, Monroe, Taylor, and Union County; 86 counties had higher soybean yields, 11 had lower yields, and 2015 soybean yields were not reported for Taylor and Mills County.

Knowing that higher county yields reduce the likelihood and the potential amount of ARC-CO payments, the NASS release spurred the interest of producers to recalculate their own projected ARC-CO payments for the 2015/16 crop marketing year. However, two important details often overlooked when calculating projected ARC-CO payments are (1) that county yields are determined on a per planted acre basis, as opposed to a per harvested acre basis; and (2) that the official county yields used in the final calculation of ARC-CO payments are published by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), as opposed to NASS.

NASS yields are calculated as production (in bushels) divided by harvested acres. Since they are not determined on a per planted acre basis, they cannot be used to calculate ARC-CO payments.

FSA yields are only available after the end of the crop year and are calculated on a per planted acre basis. Therefore, most of the difference between FSA and NASS yields is explained by failed acres. The average difference between FSA and NASS county corn yields in Iowa for 2014/15 (the only year for which both yields are publicly available), amounts to 4.75 bushels per acre.

arcco3232016In an effort to reflect the impact of failed acres on the yield used to project ARC-CO payments, the ISU Projected ARC-CO Payment Calculator uses “corrected” yields in the calculation of the 2015/16 actual county crop revenue. The “corrected” yields are based on NASS production data and obtained by dividing production (in bushels) by planted acres. For 63 Iowa counties the “corrected” yields in 2014/15 were closer to the official FSA yields than NASS yields were. For example, the corn yield used by FSA to calculate ARC-CO payments for Lyon County in 2014/15 is 149 bushels, while the NASS yield is 172.9 bushels, and the “corrected” yield is 155 bushels. The average difference between FSA and “corrected” corn yields amounted to 0.42 bushels per acre.

Judging by the release date of 2014 county yields by FSA on October 23, 2015, it can be expected that FSA will release final 2015 county yields in October 2016, at about the same time as the 2015 ARC-CO payments. Until then, the ISU ARC-CO Payment Calculator will use a “calculated” yield and projected marketing year price until the price for the marketing year is finalized the end of September.

All ISU Extension and Outreach Farm Bill decision tools are available online at:

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Relatively Quiet Report for Corn and Soybeans (6/10/15)

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA reports.

Hart_Chad-thumbThere are only a few changes in the U.S. corn and soybean outlooks from USDA. For corn, the only change is a 25 million drop in corn usage for ethanol from the 2014 crop. All other supply and demand numbers remain the same. And the season-average price midpoints hold at $3.65 per bushel for the 2014 crop and $3.50 per bushel for the 2015 crop. For soybeans, demand is ratcheted up a little bit. On the 2014 crop, both domestic crush and export demand are raised 10 million bushels. On the 2015 crop, crush is raised another 5 million bushels. Combined, this lowered 2015/16 soybean ending stocks to 475 million bushels. But the price outlook holds steady at $10.05 per bushel for the 2014 crop and $9.00 per bushel for the 2015 crop.

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A Very Quiet Report

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA report.

A Very Quiet Report (6/11/14)

97hartsmUSDA released its June update for crop supplies and demand and the updates were few and far between. For corn, there were no changes to the supply and demand estimates for the 2014 crop. Yield is projected at 165.3 bushels per acre.  Production is projected at a record 13.935 billion bushels, 10 million bushels above last year’s record crop. Total use is set at 13.385 billion bushels, down 250 million bushels from last year. 2014/15 ending stocks are set at 1.726 billion bushels, up 580 million bushels from the previous year. And the midpoint of the season-average price range remains at $4.20 per bushel.

For soybeans, there was one adjustment, but it was for the 2013 crop. 2013 domestic crush was increased 5 million bushels. Otherwise, as with corn, the projections remain the same. Yield is projected at 45.2 bushels per acre. Production is projected at a record 3.635 billion bushels. Total use is set at 3.45 billion bushels. 2014/15 ending stocks are set 325 million bushels, up 200 million from the previous year. And the midpoint of the season-average price range is $10.75 per bushel.

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The 1st Official Look at 2014

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest USDA report.

97hartsmThe 1st Official Look at 2014 (5/9/14)

With the May World Ag. Supply and Demand Estimates report, USDA provides its 1st official set of projections for the 2014 crops. We can compare these numbers to USDA’s unofficial numbers from the Ag Outlook Forum they hold in February each year. On the supply side, the number to watch is the yield. And is typically the case with the 1st estimates, USDA maintains trendline yields for both corn and soybeans. Those are 165.3 bushels per acre for corn and 45.2 bushels per acre for soybeans. Given the acreage estimates from the March Prospective Plantings report, then 2014 shapes up to be a record year for corn and soybeans. On the demand side, all of the sectors (feed, ethanol, crush, and exports) are in play. And the current projections are generally higher than those from February. Ethanol and export demand for corn was raised for both old and new crop corn. The weak spot on the corn side is feed demand, as fewer animals translate to slightly smaller demand. Export demand for soybeans continues to soar to record levels, while domestic crush demand also grows (but more slowly than anticipated in February). In the February outlook, season-average price estimates were set at $3.90 per bushel for corn and $9.65 per bushel for soybeans. With the higher demand numbers with the May report, these estimates move to $4.20 for corn and $10.75 for soybeans. So with Iowa production costs in the $4.50 range for corn and $11 range for soybeans, the USDA projections still indicate negative returns for both crops, but the gap has shrunk significantly.

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New Guidelines for Cover Crop Termination Affects Crop Insurance

Contributed by Steven D. JohnsonFarm Management Specialist, Iowa State University Extension,, 515-957-5790


If you planted a cover crop last fall and need to terminate it this spring in fields that will be planted to corn or soybeans, when should you kill the cover crop? Timing for termination of a cover crop can affect whether the crop insurance coverage attaches for the corn and soybean crop yet to be planted.

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) has issued new guidelines for cover crop termination in 2014 that are slightly different from last year.  RMA officials made these changes after meeting with officials from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Through the interagency working group a consistent and flexible cover crop policy can be applied across all USDA agencies.

With the new guidelines farmers can hopefully obtain the conservation benefits of cover crops while minimizing risk of reducing yield to the following crop due to soil water use.

The NRCS Guidelines for 2014 use four strategic management zones across the nation. Iowa has two of those zones. As the accompanying map shows, about a third of Iowa (western portion) is in Zone 3, while the rest of Iowa is in Zone 4.

If you are in Zone 3, you must terminate the cover crop at or before planting the subsequent crop, which is likely corn or soybeans. In Zone 4, the rest of Iowa, you must terminate the cover crop at or within 5 days after planting the subsequent crop if you want the subsequent crop to be insured.

cover crop termination zones 2014

Termination is not about a date; it’s about when you are going to plant the subsequent corn or soybean crop.  The cover crop, if it is not 100% destroyed, will compete with corn or soybeans for moisture in the soil. That’s the reason for the different zones.

Termination means growth has ended for 100% of the cover crop in the field. These NRCS Guidelines basically state that you have to terminate growth of the cover crop before crop insurance coverage attaches to the corn or soybean crop you plant in that field.

You can still graze or hay a cover crop, but crop insurance will not attach to the crop following a cover crop if termination of the cover crop is not done according to these new guidelines. The key is you want to kill the cover crop if you want the crop insurance coverage to attach. Contact your crop insurance agent if you have questions. The 2014 Cover Crops Crop Insurance and NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines FAQs are at:

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Questions about Late Harvest, Low Prices Addressed by Iowa State

A news release from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach by Charles Hurburgh, Agricultural and Biosystems and Willy Klein, ISU Extension and

Members of the extension crops team from Iowa State University responded to producer questions related to the late spring, dry summer and slow crop development by holding meetings in north central Iowa last week.

Extension field agronomists Mark Johnson and Paul Kassel discussed crop maturity, crop drying, potential effects of an early frost, and pre-harvest preparations at meetings held in Clarion, Wesley and Sheffield. Charles Hurburgh, extension grain quality and handling specialist, spoke of 2013 crop quality, including moisture and test weight variability, potential diseases, and the best practices for handling and storing the crop.Iowa State specialists Chad Hart, extension economist, and Kelvin Leibold, extension farm management specialist, reviewed the 2013-2014 crop market outlook at the meetings.For the benefit of those not attending the meetings, ISU Extension and Outreach has made video recordings of the presentations available on the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative website at

Get more crop news from ISU Extension and Outreach
The extension crops team makes the most current information related to crop, harvest, storage and handling issues available through the Iowa Grain Quality website and Integrated Crop Management (ICM) News, an online newsletter. ICM News articles are published at; newsletter subscribers receive notification when new articles are published.Hart and Leibold are frequent Ag Decision Maker authors. Ag Decision Maker (AgDM) updates and news are available The AgDM newsletter and updates are published every month; subscribers receive notification of the publication of new materials.As the drought situation continues in Iowa, new material is added to the Dealing with Drought – 2013 webpage. The webpage offers information for dealing with crops, livestock, stress, home and yard and financial concerns during drought situations at

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Harvesting Wet Corn to Provide Challenges

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist,

Johnson_Steve_smWhile half of Iowa’s corn crop was planted by mid-May, much was pushed back several weeks. Some fields were replanted more than once and as a result pollinated into August.

The bottom line for many growers is that corn maturity has been delayed. The problem with harvest may be a wetter than normal crop created by a combination of late planting and then impacted by hot, dry conditions during grain fill.

Iowa farmers are now expected to harvest about 13.5 million acres of corn, that’s 200,000 acres less than last year’s drought ravaged crop. The latest USDA estimate is that Iowa would average 162 bushel per acre, below the 30-year state trend yield by 17 bushels. The variability of corn yields and moisture levels is going to be large across the state. Much depends on the corn planting date and the water holding capacity of the soils.

Some corn plants that died prematurely may already be harvested, but much of Iowa’s crop will be slow to dry down in the field. It will need to be harvested and dried down to near 14 or 15 percent moisture to avoid a discount or extend storage time for bushels to be marketed later. Delivery of wet corn sold will carry moisture discount at roughly 2 percent times the points of moisture above 15 percent times the cash contract price.

For corn harvested at 25 percent moisture and averaging 170 bushels per acre dry, that’s about $90 per acre with corn valued at $4.50 per bushel. This amount roughly equals the cost of commercial drying charges using a 1.4 percent shrink factor and 4.75 cents per point of moisture. Drying and storage of corn may be a problem as harvest gets underway.

Heavy drying needs
The key thing for a grower is to think ahead about corn moisture levels, drying and storage costs — be prepared. There’s an abundant supply of propane out there. The challenge this fall — if harvested grain needs a lot of drying — will be having the propane in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps the most important factor in dealing with corn at higher moisture levels at harvest is getting the combine set up right. Some things to remember are:

  • A properly adjusted combine can handle corn between 20 and 30 percent moisture, but expect grain damage to increase unless careful attention is paid to combine settings.
  • Be sure to select a ground speed adequate to keep separator and cleaning shoe at full speed. Adjust your hydrostatic transmission to maintain the engine near rated speed under varying crop conditions.
  • Operate the corn head as high as possible to reduce getting wet plant material in the combine, which can significantly reduce the machine’s ability to thresh and separate the grain.
  • Before changing concave clearance, make sure it is level side-to-side in a conventional combine or front-to-back in a rotary combine so that the adjustment is uniform.

While corn harvest may begin later than normal this fall, farmers will want to be prepared early.

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“Ag Cycles” and Iowa Agriculture

John Lawrence , ISU Extension Director for Ag and Natural Resources, provides an update of analysis completed and information available.

ISU Extension and the ISU Economics Department have put together a series of papers titled “Ag Cycles.” This collection of papers is an analysis of the current state of Iowa agriculture from the crop, livestock, and land market perspective. It examines the question of price levels and price risk going forward. It also includes a recent analysis and papers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which examines previous agricultural cycles and how they played out through borrower’s behavior. Combined, this analysis provides lessons from the past and milestones as potential guides to the future.

Agricultural production and prices have always been cyclical. The influence of weather on production is one factor. The tendency of individuals to react rather than anticipate market signals also contributes to boom and bust periods. The length of the cycle differs with the commodity, and the weather and cyclical prices in one commodity will influence cyclical behavior in another market.

 This analysis is not intended to be a forecast of annual prices in the coming months or years. Nor is it predicting gloom and doom for agriculture. Rather, it is intended to help put current economic conditions into a historic context, better understand the factors that will influence prices and margins in the future, and help you prepare for whatever direction the market turns.

This series of papers can be found in Ag Decision Maker at

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