Producers and traders alike will anxiously be awaiting several USDA reports in coming weeks. First, will be the Jan. 12 USDA supply and demand report. It will be the final production report for 2016 U.S. corn and soybean production as well as a day for the quarterly grains stocks report as of Dec. 1, 2016. The second watched report will be released the third week of February when USDA provides their 10-year baseline reports for grains and meats produced in the U.S. Those baseline reports will be an early glimpse into expected 2017 U.S corn and soybean acres and yields. Just prior to the baseline report release, we will hear of 2017 corn and soybean acres that USDA provided to Congress last fall for the upcoming year. Those numbers don’t get public attention until February. It can become quite confusing dissecting the February reports when the numbers are released. The last report to gather attention in early 2017 will be the March 31, 2017 acres intentions report. Grains that day can be extremely volatile. It is no surprise that in the past, the March 31 report day has often been dubbed “the most influential USDA report for the entire year.”
Digging deeper into these reports, the Jan. 12 report will be focused both on yields and ending stocks. Traders will likely give soybeans more attention than corn. With the 2016 soybean yield getting bigger through time last fall, many are expecting the yield to climb slightly. The U.S. soybean yield in July 2016 was estimated at 46.7 bushels per acre. The last report for the 2016 U.S. soybean yield placed it at 52.5 bushels per acre. Ending stocks last month were estimated at 480 million bushels. If the U.S. yield is increased, it will push ending stocks above 500 million bushels if demand is not increased. If that mark is breached, soybeans could have a tough time moving above the recent highs for March CBOT seen late in November at $10.65.
For months, we have heard ideas of the 2017 U.S. soybean acres again increasing. It has been a trend that is not unexpected. With low corn prices again in store for 2017, many are seeing the opportunity to lock in profits with soybeans. This past year the U.S. planted 83.7 million acres to soybeans, up two million acres from 2015. The U.S. has continued to plant more acres to soybeans but you would be surprised at the speed of the increasing pace. The U.S. first reached the 70 million acre level in 1979 with 71.4 million acres. That would not be seen again until 1997 when the U.S. planted 70.6 million acres to soybeans. The next plateau was seen in 2014 when 83.3 million acres were planted to soybeans in the U.S.
As producers look with anticipation to the February averaging period for corn and soybeans and their crop insurance coverage, they need to be aware of additional opportunities. Many crop insurance companies offer “price flex” or other products. With those products, producers can lock in the December corn or November soybean prices outside of those seen in February. For example, producers with a signed application by Dec. 20 were able to lock in the December average price for November soybeans, which ended on Dec. 31 near $10.10. Producers did this with the anticipation that the February average price would be lower or even much lower compared to December 2016. Yes, there is a cost of several dollars per acre to use these products. Producers have to get that application signed 10 days before the end of the averaging period.
Weather in South America will be key for soybean prices the next eight weeks. Any hints of dry weather for prolonged periods could easily push soybeans back to the $10.60 area. Corn continues to be in a sideways pattern frustrating producers everywhere.