Farm Bill Safety Net Payments Provide Producers Small Cushion

ajsmplastina_alejandro_2014Alejandro Plastina, ISU Extension Economist, and Ann Johanns, Extension Program Specialist, provide an explanation of the data used in calculating 2015 ARC-CO payments in Iowa.

Final data on 2015 county level yields was recently released by the USDA Farm Service Agency. This is the final information needed for calculating payment rates under the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) program.

The Marketing Year Average (MYA) prices for the marketing year starting Sept. 1, 2015 and ending Aug. 31, 2016 were $3.61 for corn and $8.95 for soybeans. The payments released by the USDA Farm Service Agency starting in October 2016 are for crop acres enrolled during the 2015 crop year.

Payments under the 2014 Farm Bill are tied to the base acres on a farm and are not influenced by the crop grown in the payment year.

ARC-CO Payments

2015 ARC-CO payments on corn base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

2015 ARC-CO payments on corn base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

ARC-CO payments by base acre for corn and soybeans are shown in Figures 1 and 2. Under the ARC-CO program, producers receive payment on 85 percent of their base acres. This 15 percent reduction is factored into the values seen in the related figures. Furthermore, a 6.8 percent deduction is applied due to the federal government’s sequestration of the budget. Seven counties (Appanoose, Decatur, Henry, Lucas, Marion, Monroe and Washington), all located in the south central and southeast portion of the state, will not see a payment for corn or soybean acres.

Eight counties (Clarke, Jefferson, Keokuk, Pottawattamie, Ringgold, Van Buren, Warren and Wayne) will receive a payment on soybean acres and not on corn. Another 26 counties will receive a corn payment and no soybean payment (Adair, Bremer, Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cerro Gordo, Clay, Davis, Dickinson, Emmet, Floyd, Franklin, Guthrie, Hancock, Howard, Humboldt, Kossuth, Madison, Mitchell, Monona, Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Sac, Winnebago, Worth and Wright). Base acres enrolled in ARC-CO in the remaining fifty-eight counties will receive a payment at some level for both crops.


2015 ARC-CO payments on soybean base acres (payments rounded to nearest dollar)

PLC Payments

With the 2014 Farm Bill, Iowa producers had two options to choose from, ARC-CO or Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The PLC program provided a safety net for producers should the MYA prices be below the set reference prices of $3.70 for corn and $8.40 for soybeans. No payments were seen in Iowa under the PLC program for 2014, but a small payment will be received for corn base acres enrolled in PLC for 2015. The payment per bushel will be $0.07 (after 6.8 percent sequestration) and based on yield information at the farm level. Producers were given the option to update their yield information with FSA during program sign-up.

Statewide Payments

The average ARC-CO payment per base acre on corn was $33.51 and $15.68 for soybean acres in Iowa. With over 22 million base acres in the state enrolled in ARC-CO or PLC, estimated payments for Iowa producers under ARC-CO for the 2015 marketing year is approximately $646 million with another $3.8 million going towards corn base acres enrolled in PLC.

More information on the 2014 Farm Bill, including decision tools to see detailed calculations of payments by county, are available through the Ag Decision Maker website. Maps of payments can be found through the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Farm Bill mapping tool. Projections for 2016/17 payments are updated regularly as information is released by USDA FSA.

Yield Adjustments, but Still Record Crops (10/12/16)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbUSDA updated its projections for the 2016 corn and soybean crops. And while the national corn yield is reduced, the national soybean yield is increased and record production is still on the books for both crops. The national corn yield is set at 173.4 bushels per acre, down a bushel from last month, but still 2.4 bushels above the previous record set in 2014. With the yield this high, a 15 billion bushel corn crop is projected to be heading in from the fields during harvest. Combined with the 1.7 billion bushel carryover, total corn supplies for the 2016/17 marketing year stand at 16.85 billion bushels. Corn usage is also projected at record levels, but demand has not been able and is not projected to keep up with the supply surge. Corn export projections are raised 50 million bushels, bringing total usage up to a record 14.5 billion bushels. The end result is an ending stock level roughly 600 million bushels higher than we had for the 2015/16 marketing year, but slightly lower than last month’s estimate. That slight tightening of ending stocks gave USDA a little room to raise their projected price range by 5 cents per bushel, with the midpoint now at $3.25 per bushel.

The national soybean yield is projected at 51.4 bushels per acre, up 0.8 bushels from last month and well above the previous record. With production approaching 4.3 billion bushels, the soybean market has never had more beans to work with. So again, it’s a story of record supplies and demand, but demand growth lags behind supply growth. Soybean export projections are raised 40 million bushels, bringing total usage to 4.1 billion bushels. But ending stocks are projected to double and price projections are held steady, with the midpoint of the season-average farm price range set at $9.05 per bushel.

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Stocks Inline with Expectations (9/30/16)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbStock levels for corn and soybeans were up in the most recent USDA report, but the trade expected that as we move into the next marketing year. Corn ending stocks were estimated at 1.74 billion bushels, up just 6 million bushels from last year. While total corn stocks are about the same, farmers are holding more back on the farm than they did last year. Strong demand from the ethanol and export sectors boosted June-August corn disappearance by 9 percent. For soybeans, we entered the 2016/17 marketing year with 197 million bushels in storage. That’s 3 percent above last year’s level. And reversing the pattern for corn, less soybeans are being held by farmers on the farm. Summer crush and export demand were firm as well, with June-August soybean disappearance increasing by 55 percent. So the stocks report confirmed strong demand for corn and soybeans, but stocks still grew year-over-year.

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Flood damaged crops, crop insurance payments, and lease contracts

William Edwards, retired extension economist, on issues from flooding regarding crop insurance, rented acres and looking ahead to 2017.

edwardswm_finalSome Iowa corn and soybean producers are facing substantial if not complete crop losses due to flooding. Fortunately, nearly 90 percent of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres are protected by Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI).

Crop insurance

Most Iowa producers purchase crop insurance policies with a 75 to 85 percent level of coverage. This means that if crops are a total loss, the producer must withstand the first 15 to 25 percent of the loss. However, in 2016 nearly 90 percent of the crop acres insured in Iowa were covered under Revenue Protection policies, which offer an increasing guarantee if prices increase between February and October. So far, this has added about $.80 per bushel to soybean guarantees, while the current corn futures price is actually below the February average. Moreover, since Revenue Protection (RP) policies are settled at the average nearby futures price during the month of October, rather than local cash prices, farmers receive a bonus equal to the fall grain basis in their area.

Producers with crops that have been totally destroyed by flooding will not have to incur the variable costs of harvesting. This could save around $20 per acre for soybeans and perhaps $50 per acre for corn, depending on potential yields and drying costs. Nevertheless, even producers who carried insurance at a high coverage level could be looking at net revenues near or below those obtained from normal yields this year.

2016 flooded bean field

Potential losses

For example, assume an insured tract has an expected corn yield and insurance proven yield of 175 bushels per acre. A normal crop marketed at $3.00 per bushel would bring $525 per acre. The insurance indemnity payment for an 80 percent RP guarantee, zero yield, and a February futures price of $3.86 would equal 175 bu. x $3.86 x 80% = $540. Saving $50 in harvest costs would give an equivalent of $590 per acre, or $65 above the value of a normal crop.

For soybeans, assume both the expected yield and the proven yield are 60 bushels per acre, and the crop could be marketed at $9.00 per bushel. Gross income for a normal crop would be $540 per acre. The insurance payment for a complete crop failure and a $9.65 October futures price would be 60 bu. x $9.65 x 80% = $463. Savings of $20 in harvesting costs brings the equivalent of $483 per acre, or $57 below the value of a normal crop.

In many cases, of course, flooded acres will make up only a portion of the insured unit, so production from non-flooded acres will be averaged in with the zero yields from the flooded acres.

The real question is how much will it cost to clean up fields and bring them back into production next year? Most Iowa farmers have not had experience with fields being under water for extended periods of time, so effects are difficult to estimate. Problems will range from physically removing debris to leveling eroded areas to restoring fertility.

Flooded field, 2016

Rental contracts

What do these questions imply for rental contracts? A great deal of uncertainty, for one thing. Lease agreements in Iowa continue in effect for another year under the same terms if they were not terminated on or before September 1.

Landowners will have to bear the burden of mitigating flood damages – that goes with owning property. But, a better solution may be for renters and owners to work together to repair the damage and bring the land back into production. Farm operators may have access to machinery that can help accomplish the job that owners do not. In return, tenants should be compensated for their efforts, either directly, through a significant discount on the 2017 rent, or with a long-term lease.

Next year

In some cases there may be doubt as to whether land flooded this year can even be planted next year. Risk Management Agency rules state that land must be physically available for planting to be insurable. Land that cannot be planted due to weather events that occurred before the sales closing date (March 15 in Iowa) is not eligible for prevented planting payments. When operators report their 2016 production, they can request that their 2016 yield histories reflect a value equal to 60 percent of the county “T-yield” rather than a zero or very low yield.

Close communication and cooperation between owners, crop insurance agents and renters can be a “win-win” strategy in the long run, but recovery may take several years.

Additional information about managing flood damaged cropland will be available from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as the waters recede and the situation is assessed. Keep in mind, dealing with issues from flooding can be stressful. Reach out to resources such as the Iowa Concern Hotline, with trained staff who are available to listen.

Iowa Concern –All calls, chats, and emails are free and confidential. Language interpretation available.

  • 24/7 Phone Support – Trained staff take your calls via a toll-free hotline at 1-800-447-1985.
  • Live Chat Services – Live chat for online, one-on-one support.
  • Email an Expert – Send your questions related to legal issues, finance, stress and crisis or disaster to our staff.

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Supply and Demand Move Higher (7/12/16)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbThe July updates from USDA pushed both crop supplies and demands higher. But in the longer run, stock levels are projected to be higher, with steady to lower prices. On the supply side, the revised acreage and stock numbers from last month were fully incorporated into the projections. Corn production was increased by 110 million bushels, while soybean production rose by 80 million.

On the demand side, there were several offsetting moves. For corn in both old and new crop settings, feed and ethanol usage were lowered, while food and export usage rose. For soybeans, export demand was increased for both old and new crop. Crush demand was lifted slightly for the new crop, but seed and other uses were lowered for the old crop. Putting all of the shifts together results in slightly lower old crop ending stocks, but higher new crop (2016/17) stocks.

Season-average prices were held steady for soybeans, at $9.05 for the 2015/16 crop and $9.50 for the 2016/17 crop. Corn season-average prices were reduced by 5 cents on the 2015/16 crop to $3.65 per bushel and by 10 cents on the 2016/17 crop to $3.40 per bushel.

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Positive Demand News from USDA (6/10/16)

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

Hart_Chad-thumbUSDA’s June updates contained good news on the demand front for corn and soybeans. International demand continues to strengthen, while domestic usage holds steady. With no major changes on the supply side, this implies lower ending stocks and projections of higher prices. Starting with corn, the losses and delays in the South American harvest have opened up some off-season selling opportunities for the U.S. Old crop (2015/16) exports were raised 100 million bushels as a result. Although corn imports were increased slightly, the overall impact for old crop corn is a 95 million drop in ending stocks and a 10 cent increase in the season-average price to $3.70 per bushel. That drop in ending stocks, combined with another increase in new crop (2016/17) exports of 50 million bushels, lowered new crop ending stocks by 145 million bushels. The changes added 15 cents to the new crop corn season-average price estimate, raising it to $3.50 per bushel.

For soybeans, both old crop domestic and international demand were on the upswing. Crush added 10 million bushels, while exports grew by 20 million bushels. With the 30 million bushel drop in old crop ending stocks, USDA raised its 2015/16 season-average price by 20 cents to $9.05 per bushel. As with corn, the export demand increase extended into the new crop as well, adding another 15 million bushels. That pushed new crop ending stocks below 300 million bushels and lifted the 2016/17 season-average price estimate by 40 cents, to $9.50 per bushel.

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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.

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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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