The USDA Crop Report issued on Aug. 12 came in with a larger-than-expected crop production estimate for the 2009 corn crop in the U.S., which would make it the second largest U.S. corn crop in history, trailing only the 2007 total corn production of 13.1 billion bushels in the U.S. Based on Aug. 1 conditions, USDA is estimating the 2009 corn crop at almost 12.8 billion bushels, which is an increase of about 5% above the 2008 U.S. corn production of 12.1 billion bushels. The August estimate is slightly higher than the 12.4 billion bushels that most private analysts estimated. The U.S. corn carryover for 2009-2010 is now estimated at 1.6 billion bushels, which is up slightly from the July USDA estimate.

USDA is now projecting a national average corn yield of 159.5 bu./acre, which is up 5.6 bu./acre from 2008, and is the second highest national corn yield on record, trailing only 2004. The projected yield increase compared to 2008 is due to greatly improved weather conditions in the primary corn producing regions of the U.S., including Minnesota and Iowa. USDA is now projecting Iowa’s average corn yield at 185 bu./acre for 2009, which is up 8% compared to the 2008 average corn yield of 171 bu./acre in Iowa. Minnesota’s average corn yield for 2009 is pegged at 167 bu./acre by USDA, compared to an average corn yield of 164 in 2008. The only major corn-producing state expected to have a corn yield decrease in 2009 compared to 2008 is Illinois, with 175 bu./acre expected in 2009, compared to 179 in 2008. Illinois experienced later-than-normal corn planting in 2009 due to excessive rainfall.

Soybeans were very near grain trade estimates, and approximately 8% above the 2008 national soybean production. USDA now projects the 2009 U.S. soybean crop at 3.199 billion bushels, which compares to 2.959 billion bushels in 2008. The U.S. soybean carryover for 2009-2010 is now estimated at 210 million bushels, which is down 40 million bushels from the July USDA estimate.

The U.S. average soybean yield for 2009 is estimated at 41.7 bu./acre, which compares to 39.6 bu. in 2008. USDA is expecting a 2009 yield in Minnesota of 40 bu./acre, compared to 38 in 2008. The expected 2009 soybean yield in Iowa is 52 bu./acre, compared to 46 in 2008.

Thiesse’s Thoughts
USDA decreased the expected amount of harvested corn acres by about 100,000 acres from the June estimate; 2009 expectations still call for 80 million acres to be harvested for corn grain in 2009, which is approximately 2% higher than 2008 harvested acres. The 2009 USDA August crop estimates are probably a bit more iffythan in most years, given the fact that most of the 2009 corn and soybean crop remains seven to 14 days or more behind normal development, based on accumulated growing degree units (GDUs) since May 1. Any incidence of a significant killing frost anywhere in the Midwest before the end of September will likely have a significant impact the final corn and soybean yields, and will ultimately affect the total U.S. corn and soybean production for 2009.

Corn and soybean markets have trended down since the Aug. 12 report was released, however, the grain markets are quite volatile, and are likely to remain that way given some of the uncertainty surrounding the 2009 crop conditions.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.