A Big Bearish Day For Ags

July 01, 2009

The USDA released its Acreage report Tuesday morning and the market got its first gooad look at where final acreage stands for many key crops.

  • Soggy spring no biggie for corn
  • Record soybean plantings
  • Oversupplied in wheat


After expecting lower numbers due to rain-slowed plantings, the market reacted to the news that it looks like we're heading for another bumper year - assuming historical harvesting trends hold true.



After a truly wet, soggy spring that threatened to send farmers running from corn to soybeans, it seems the concern was for nothing. Corn acres planted are estimated to be 87.035 million for the year - up 1.2% from 2008. And even though that's 7% lower than 2007's record ethanol-fueled plantings, it's still good enough for second place.f The corn acres expected to be harvested this year are up 1.9% from 2008 as well, to 80.107 million acres. On June 10, the USDA estimated that the 2009 corn yield would be 153.4 bushels per acre - a scant 0.3% lower than the yield in 2008. Doing the math, that puts the 2009 corn crop at 12.29 billion bushels - up from previous estimates of 11.9 billion bushels previously reported.

Put together, it comes down to this: Lots of corn going in the ground, increased survival in the field, and yields where they should be. That means plenty of corn on the market, come harvest.

While this might make ethanol plants and food manufacturers and feedlots happy, corn traders were not happy - by 10:52 a.m., the most active contract, December 2009, had fallen the exchange limit of 30 cents to $3.6725 a bushel. Prices could go even lower. The Financial Times quoted Richard Feltes, head of research at MF Global, as saying December corn could drop as low as $3.35 "in the absence of crop adversity."


Corn (C, CBOT)

Corn perfomance Feb-June 2009 



The numbers for soybeans are also bearish, but the market didn't have the immediate gaping horror reaction.

Acres planted with soybeans rose 2.3% to 77.483 million, compared with 2008's 75.718 million acres - a record for soybean acreage. Twenty-two out of the 31 states that grow soybeans increased their plantings compared with last year. Add to that the fact that the USDA is forecasting a slightly lower rate of crop loss (1.2% vs. 1.4% for 2008) and that could translate into a record harvest area of 76.547 million acres. The other important statistic to look at would be yield estimates, but it is too early to call with harvest not starting until November, but even with an average harvest, the increase of 2.6% in area harvested means U.S. soybean supply is up.

The big difference in soybeans is that demand is much firmer than in corn, so while the initial market reaction was dramatic, it recovered quickly. Grant Kimberly of the Iowa Soybean Association points to strong soybean demand, explaining it this way:

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