A look at the June 30 numbers

By Jon Scheve, Superior Feed Ingredients, LLC 

The USDA report suggested farmers last spring paid attention to lower fertilizer costs and higher December corn values by planting more corn. Historically, when crops are planted quickly more corn acres are added at the expense of beans. 

Harvested vs planted acres

Digging deeper into the June 30 report, the USDA’s harvested acres as a percent of planted seems to mirror the average from 2013 through 2017 instead of the last five years. If the average of the last 10 years was used instead, there would be a 500,000-acre reduction for total production. If the average from the last five years was used, it would reduce harvested acres by 1 million. This could mean a potential carryout reduction of 90-180 million bushels or 5% to 10% decrease sometime in the future.

Sorghum

Sorghum plantings were up nearly 1 million acres from the spring estimates. This product will directly compete with corn in feed rations in the southern states unless the Chinese buy it to be exported for feed or to make an alcoholic beverage out of it.

Feed category

The USDA also reported old crop corn stocks being tighter than previously estimated. Therefore, it seems likely the old crop feed category will be increased by around 150 million bushels. If this is where the changes are made then it will more closely align with the actual animals on feed, this past year. This reduction in old crop could carry through to the new crop carryout and help keep the numbers from getting completely out of hand.

But new crop could face some feed demand issues. To hit the current feed estimates, cattle numbers would need to increase, with hog and poultry numbers not dropping. A corn price decrease could spur that kind of growth, but if yields drop and prices rally, it would be difficult for demand to increase.

Exports

This past year export pace was hit when Brazil grew a big crop and U.S. prices were too high. U.S. prices are still higher than our competitors, which will not help increase demand any time soon. This category could be the hardest hit and ultimately be the reason that corn struggles to rally long term.

July weather

This continues to be the big unknown. Generally, forecasts are indicating widespread favorable weather in the month of July, but they need to verify. The last four weeks have shown that the forecasts do not hold up.

However, social media can sometimes exaggerate local weather events, making it difficult to understand actual damages. For example, there was a recent derecho in the central Midwest where pictures of wind damage were shown online. While those hit hardest can face some big challenges, there is a high probability that the rain from this storm had more widespread benefit than the actual loss of any crop. 

Projecting carryout and prices

The chart below summarizes the USDA categories that I think will have the most impact on prices moving forward. Also included are my futures price projections” based upon different national yield averages. 

It seems the market is trading around a 175 per bushel yield today, so any further reduction of the national yield would likely spark a rally. Unfortunately, rallies do ration demand so as the supply is cut so too will eventually the demand be lowered on a rally. A 2-billion-bushel carryout is too much. Anytime in the last 10 years carryout exceeded 2 billion at the end of season, futures fell below $4. 

Comparing December futures — 2012 and 2013 vs 2023

As always, July weather will impact prices the most. Unfortunately, if normal weather persists through the summer, corn faces a lot of downside risk.

Next week I will take a more in-depth view of the soybean market.

Please email jon@superiorfeed.com with any questions or to learn more. Jon grew up raising corn and soybeans on a farm near Beatrice, Neb. Upon graduation from The University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he became a grain merchandiser and has been trading corn, soybeans and other grains for the last 18 years, building relationships with end-users in the process. After successfully marketing his father’s grain and getting his MBA, 10 years ago he started helping farmer clients market their grain based upon his principals of farmer education, reducing risk, understanding storage potential and using basis strategy to maximize individual farm operation profits. A big believer in farmer education of futures trading, Jon writes a weekly commentary to farmers interested in learning more and growing their farm operations.

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