U.S. farmers could see record soybean harvest

Rain boosts crops | Corn crop could also be near record size

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — June was wet across the main U.S. grain belt and the continuing outlook is for a mild summer.


It all points to another bumper corn and soybean harvest for the world’s largest food exporter, analysts say.


Heavy rain across the Midwest and Plains had replenished soil moisture in most of the nation’s big crop growing region by early July. For many meteorologists and farm forecasters, the second straight year of favourable early summer weather is making the record drought of two years ago a distant memory.


“We feel pretty good about the outlook in general,” said Elwynn Taylor, a veteran climatologist and agronomist at Iowa State University. 


“The odds right now are that the U.S. corn belt will have a yield that is well above the average.”


USDA last week forecast soybean plantings up 11 percent on the year to a record high 84.8 million acres. Projected harvested acreage will be a record by more than 7.4 million acres. 


The USDA’s soybean yield forecast from its June report is 45.2 bu. per acre. That sets up a potential U.S. crop of 3.8 billion bushels, far above the previous high of 3.3 billion bu. and the June guess of 3.6 billion.


Corn production should also be a bin-buster, slightly above the 2013 level, even through farmers trimmed acreage by four percent from a year ago to the lowest since 2010.


The corn yield forecast is 165.3 bu. per acre, up four percent from last year.


Some analysts are penciling in even bigger yields, as high as 170 bu. for corn. USDA will update its forecast July 11.


Big crops are good news for food processors, livestock producers, ethanol makers and exporters, who have been paying hefty prices for corn and soybeans the past few years after grain supplies shrank because of the 2012 drought. Grain futures prices are now at their lowest levels in four to six months.


Too much rain recently flooded a small percentage of the acreage in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, maybe one to two percent, but Taylor said higher overall yields will counter any shortfalls.


“There are some places that be-cause of too much moisture have flooding, washouts, erosion. That’s regrettable, but if farmers had to have one, they’d take the moisture rather than drought,” Taylor said.


A good chunk of the southern Plains, which is wheat and cattle country hit by several years of drought, also benefited from above-normal rains last month. 


However, the moisture put the Kansas winter wheat harvest behind by a couple weeks and damaged mature wheat, crop specialists said.


Iowa, the top corn and soybean state, received nearly 250 millimetres of rain in June, almost double the normal rainfall for the month, according to the state climatologist office. That sets up perfectly for corn, which enters its key pollination stage this month.


The U.S. Drought Monitor said drought has eased since the start of planting, particularly in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.


“The general pattern will continue with local pockets of excessive wetness, with parts of the far upper Midwest on the cool side but the overall picture for corn and soybeans re-mains positive,” said Brad Rippey, a USDA meteorologist.


The National Weather Service’s July outlook called for normal to below normal temperatures and generally normal rainfall across the heart of the grain belt.


“Unless something drastically changes over the summer, we’re looking at big crops,” said Josh Senechal, a meteorologist at Freese-Notis who forecasts a mild Midwest summer.