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USDA Homes in on US Crop Estimates

Todd Hultman
By  Todd Hultman , DTN Lead Analyst
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USDA will release its latest Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) reports on Friday, Sept. 10. (USDA logo)

This article was originally published at 8:57 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 8. It was updated at 5:14 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 8, following the Farm Service Agency's inadvertent early release of planting data.

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On Friday, Sept. 10, USDA will release crop estimates of U.S. corn and soybeans, which also includes field data for the first time this year. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has also warned that acreage estimates may be adjusted in the September reports.

CORN

Of the three big U.S. crops, traders are apt to be most nervous about what USDA will say regarding corn in Friday's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) and Crop Production reports. This will be the first time in 2021 that data from field plots will be included for both corn and soybeans, so surprises are possible. The arrival of significant rains in the western corn states in late August and early September may have provided some benefit to filling crops not yet completely ruined by drought.

On Sept. 1, USDA's NASS said they had sufficient data to consider adjusting corn and soybean acres in the Sept. 10 report. It is difficult to know what NASS might say, but there is a risk of corn acres being adjusted higher. On Sept. 8, the Farm Service Agency inadvertently posted a September corn planting estimate of 91.2 million acres, up from 90.3 million acres in August. Given the usual difference between September FSA planting estimates and the final WASDE planting estimate, Wednesday's higher FSA estimate suggests 94.7 million acres of corn plantings.

As usual, Dow Jones surveyed its pool of 21 analysts and came up with an average corn crop estimate of 14.897 billion bushels (bb) for 2021, based on a yield of 175.5 bushels per acre (bpa). Old-crop ending corn stocks are expected to increase from 1.117 bb to 1.159 bb, still the lowest in eight years, if correct. New-crop ending corn stocks are expected to increase from 1.242 bb to 1.329 bb.

Dow Jones' estimate of world ending corn stocks for 2021-22 is expected to increase a small amount, from 284.63 million metric tons (mmt) to 285.7 mmt (11.25 bb). On Tuesday, Dow Jones reported Brazil's old-crop second corn harvest is 95% complete, and there is still a chance USDA's estimate of that crop could be reduced further, from the August estimate of 87.0 mmt.

SOYBEANS

Estimating this year's U.S. soybean crop became more interesting after northwestern growing states, afflicted by drought all summer, received decent rain coverage in late August and early September. For many western soybean fields, the rain was none-too-soon and should have provided a late boost to yields.

Late Monday, USDA said 57% of the soybean crop was rated good to excellent, tied for the fourth-lowest rating in the past 12 years. More important will be USDA's yield estimate on Friday after seeing the results of plot measurements as well as roughly 9,100 producer surveys.

Dow Jones' survey expects USDA to increase the soybean crop estimate slightly, from 4.339 bb to 4.363 bb, based on a 50.3 bpa yield. FSA planting data released Sept. 8 suggests the planting estimate could be raised slightly, from 87.6 million acres to 87.9 million acres. Old-crop U.S. ending soybean stocks are expected to be nudged higher, from 160 million bushels (mb) to 166 mb, but the more official number won't be released until the Grain Stocks report on Sept. 30. New-crop U.S. ending soybean stocks are expected to be increased from 155 mb to 178 mb, a slightly roomier scenario, if true.

Along with slightly higher U.S. soybean ending stocks, Dow Jones' analysts also expect a slight increase in world soybean stocks, from 96.15 mmt to 96.9 mmt (3.56 bb). Keep in mind South American soybean estimates are midseason snapshots. USDA currently estimates Brazil will end the 2020-21 season with 130 mb of soybeans on Jan. 31, 2022.

WHEAT

Wheat prices experienced rare bullish excitement after the August WASDE report estimated the lowest U.S. ending wheat stocks in eight years and the lowest ending wheat stocks at the world's top eight exporters in 14 years. This time around, the price response may not be as dramatic, but the estimates of ending supplies at multiyear lows should stand.

USDA's 72.5 mmt crop estimate for Russia may not change Friday, but there is still room for Canada's estimate to come down after Statistics Canada recently estimated a 22.9 mmt crop, not yet including the impact of dry August weather. Dow Jones' analysts expect USDA to slightly reduce its estimate of world ending wheat stocks from 279.06 mmt to 278.9 mmt (10.25 bb).

For the U.S., Dow Jones expects ending wheat stocks to slip from 627 mb to 619 mb, still the lowest in eight years, if true. The inadvertent release of FSA planting estimates on Sept. 8 may have tipped traders off to a bearish surprise. FSA wheat plantings were raised from 48.8 million acres in August to 49.3 million acres in September, a number that is well above USDA's current planting estimate of 46.7 million acres and may result in higher ending stocks. U.S. wheat exports are off to a slow start, but it is still too early in the new season to draw any conclusions.

As usual, corn and soybeans will likely command the most attention Friday, and we will be watching to see what surprises, if any, USDA's data from the field has to offer.

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Join DTN's webinar at noon CDT Friday, Sept. 10, as we go over USDA's latest estimates and what they mean for market prices. We're also glad to answer any questions and will post a rebroadcast link for your listening convenience. Register here for Friday's WASDE report webinar: https://ag.dtn.com/…

U.S. PRODUCTION (Million Bushels) 2021-22
Sep Avg High Low Aug 2020-21
Corn 14,897 15,116 14,667 14,750 14,182
Soybeans 4,363 4,440 4,269 4,339 4,135
U.S. AVERAGE YIELD (Bushels Per Acre) 2021-22 (WASDE)
Sep Avg High Low Aug 2020-21
Corn 175.5 177.5 172.2 174.6 172.0
Soybeans 50.3 51.2 49.0 50.0 50.2
U.S. ENDING STOCKS (Million Bushels) 2020-21
Sep Avg High Low Aug
Corn 1,159 1,224 1,091 1,117
Soybeans 166 199 140 160
U.S. ENDING STOCKS (Million Bushels) 2021-22
Sep Average High Low Aug
Corn 1,329 1,545 1,018 1,242
Soybeans 178 245 132 155
Wheat 619 653 579 627
WORLD ENDING STOCKS (Million metric tons) 2020-21
Sep Avg High Low Aug
Corn 281.0 282.0 279.9 280.8
Soybeans 92.5 93.4 89.2 92.8
Wheat 288.6 290.0 287.0 288.8
WORLD ENDING STOCKS (million metric tons) 2021-22
Sep Avg. High Low Aug
Corn 285.7 290.5 281.5 284.6
Soybeans 96.9 98.7 91.2 96.2
Wheat 278.9 288.0 276.0 279.1

Todd Hultman can be reached at todd.hultman@dtn.com

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Todd Hultman