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USDA Cuts Forecasts for US Corn and Soybean Yields

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The USDA in its August WASDE report cut its estimates for US corn and soybean yields. Still, the agency continues to predict this year’s corn harvest will be the biggest in seven years, while soybean production will decline slightly from last year.   

Meanwhile, the USDA further lowered its outlook for global wheat supplies in 2023/24, as reduced production in Canada, the EU, and China, is only partially offset by projected increases in Ukraine. 

The USDA reduced its corn yield projection to 175.1 bushels/acre from 177.5 bu/acre last month. Corn production was forecast at 15.11 billion bushels (383.8 million tonnes), down 1.4% from last month’s estimate but 10.1% above last year. 

Soybean yield was pegged at 50.9 bu/acre, down from last month’s 52 bu/acre. Production is seen at 4.21 billion bushels (114.4 million tonnes), which is down 2.2% from last month and 1.7% lower than last year.

Gro’s machine-learning Yield Forecast Models for corn and soybeans are currently pointing to higher yields than what the USDA is projecting. Drought conditions in May and June punished yield prospects, but revivifying rains in July sharply boosted both crops’ outlook, as Gro wrote about here for corn and here for soybeans

However, soil moisture levels, aggregated for US acres planted to corn and soybeans, remain at a decade low for both crops, as shown by Gro’s Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture, and continued rainfall through August will be needed to lift yield prospects further. 

Boosted by increased corn production, the USDA estimates US corn ending stocks for 2023/24 will be the highest since 2016/17, while soybean ending stocks will be at the lowest level since 2015/16. 

The August WASDE report is the first of the USDA’s monthly reports that relies on farmer surveys as well as remotely sensed satellite imagery for its yield forecasts. Next month’s September WASDE will incorporate the season’s first objective field data.  

Globally, the USDA further cut its production outlook for Canada’s drought-hit wheat crop — down 5.7% from the agency’s estimate last month. EU wheat production was lowered another 2.2% as ongoing dry weather diminishes yield prospects primarily in Spain, Romania, and Lithuania. 

Ukraine’s wheat crop was raised by 20% to 21 million tonnes on higher yields and area harvested. Nevertheless, the USDA left Ukraine’s exports unchanged at 10.5 million tonnes as the Russia-Ukraine war continues to hamper shipments. Ukraine’s corn production outlook also was raised by 10% to 27.5 million tonnes. 

In China, heavy rainfall late in the wheat season hurt the crop and the USDA decreased its production estimate by another 2.1% to 137 million tonnes. Production cuts were also made to China’s corn crop as excessive rain and flooding in key producing provinces in Northeast China and on the North China Plain reduced yield prospects. 

The USDA also cut US cotton production estimates to the lowest level since 2015 on an increase in abandoned acres and high temperatures in Texas, as Gro wrote about here. The US is the world’s largest exporter of cotton, and production declines impact markets worldwide.

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