The loss of nearly 6 million acres of corn and soybeans to a cold and rainy planting season this year will be felt into autumn 2020 and beyond, said the government on Thursday. Fat U.S. stockpiles will be drawn down to compensate for short crops; the soybean inventory, expected to reach record size this year, would be slashed by one quarter before the 2020 harvest begins.
In a monthly report, the USDA projected the smallest corn crop in four years and the smallest soybean crop in six years. A larger-than-usual volume of wheat would be diverted to livestock feed to offset the downturn in corn production, it said. The estimates were based on a June report of plantings and assumed normal yields.
The USDA will make its first estimate of the fall harvest in early August, relying on spot checks of fields and a survey of more than 20,000 operators. It is resurveying growers throughout the Farm Belt about plantings to see if it needs to update its estimates of corn and soybean acreage. If it finds significant differences from the data gathered in June, it would alter the outlook for crop production.
At the end of June, the USDA said growers would plant 1.1 million fewer acres of corn and 4.6 million fewer acres of soybeans than they had planned at the start of the planting season. The wettest spring in a quarter century prevented farmers from sowing some of their land and delayed planting for so long in other areas that yields are expected to suffer due to the shortened growing season.
Farmers will harvest 13.9 billion bushels of corn and 3.8 billion bushels of soybeans, said USDA analysts in the WASDE Report. The projections were roughly in line with expectations.
After record-setting soybean harvests for three years in a row, the soybean stockpile was forecast to total 1.05 billion bushels, the largest ever, when this year’s harvest begins. The “carryover” would plunge to 795 million bushels, down by 24%, by the time the 2020 crop is mature, according to the USDA. All the same, it would be the second-largest stockpile ever and the equivalent of a 10-week supply.
The corn stockpile would fall by 14%, to 2.01 billion bushels, the smallest in four years, when the 2020 crop is ready for harvest. The corn carryover has run above 2 billion bushels since the record-setting 2016 crop of 15.1 billion bushels.
Drought is cutting into the wheat crop in Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, which will give the U.S. a chance to gain sales on the world market.