Tour pegs soybeans shy of USDA forecast but still record

By Karl Plume and Mark Weinraub

ROCHESTER, Minn., Aug 25 (Reuters) – U.S. soybean production could fall short of government forecasts but still be a record crop this year, according to advisory service Pro Farmer, based on data collected on a tour of fields in the Midwest this week.

Heat and rains in the next few weeks, however, could boost yields, crop scouts added at the end of the four-day tour on Friday.

Pro Farmer, a division of Farm Journal Media, estimated U.S. 2017 soy output at 4.331 billion bushels , based on an average yield of 48.5 bu. per acre. That is lower than the USDA’s prediction on Aug. 10 of 4.381 billion bu. on a yield of 49.4 bpa.

Pro Farmer estimated U.S. corn production at 13.953 billion bu. , based on an average yield of 167.1 bpa. The estimates were lower than USDA’s forecast for the third-largest U.S. corn harvest of 14.153 billion bu. and a yield of 169.5 bpa.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture surprised markets earlier this month when it raised its estimates for corn and soybean yields as futures had priced in farmers’ warnings of less-than-ideal conditions.

“The crop is here. It’s not a crop failure, it’s just reduced yields (compared to last year),” Linn Group broker Roy Huckabay said after the Pro Farmer data was released.

The crop tour surveyed soybean and corn fields in seven states that make up more than three-quarters of U.S. production from Monday to Thursday. Scouts, who included farmers and agricultural economists, found fewer soybean pods than the previous year in the top three producing states of Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, which could limit yields at harvest.

“We just haven’t had the heat we need across the Corn Belt. And we’ve had a lot of clouds too so it’s not getting the solar radiation,” said Mark Bernard, an agronomist on the eastern leg of the tour. “With this kind of weather, plants send a lot of their energy to growing and not a lot of energy to making beans and pods.”

Chicago Board of Trade November soybean futures have gained about 0.7 percent to $9.44-1/2 per bushel this week, in part because the tour’s findings suggested a smaller crop than the USDA had forecast.

CBOT December corn futures, however, dropped to a contract low of $3.52-1/2 per bushel on Friday as they reacted to the confirmation of another big U.S. crop.

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