The impact of the spring’s wet weather and flooding continue to be present in the U.S. agricultural industry as the USDA works to quantify the impact in its latest acreage report on the industry.
The USDA’s most recent report, released last week, reported a corn planting estimate of 91.7 million acres, which was much more than pre-report surveys were expecting. Industry experts also found the USDA’s lower-than-expected soybean planting estimate of 80.0 million acres surprising as it’s the smallest reported planting since 2013.
These numbers were stunning to many in the industry, given the memorable spring weather in the Midwest that was marred by a stormy and record-wet weather pattern that lasted for almost three full months. The unusually wet weather pattern featured a high-latitude high pressure that blocked the global circulation and forced cool to colder air south along with a summer-strength high pressure system in the southeastern part of the country. And, with sustained energy from the Pacific Ocean because of a weak El Nino Pacific temperature event, these events combined to produce chronic cool, wet and flooding conditions.
“With the extremely wet weather from this spring, it’s surprising the USDA reported 83% of intended corn acres had been planted at the time of the survey in early June and assumed the rest of the corn got planted,” says Todd Hultman, lead grain market analyst at DTN (disclosure: this author works for DTN). Hultman explains that the wettest states in the Eastern Corn Belt showed no or only slight corn acreage reductions from 2018, which is highly unlikely as June’s weather has only recently turned more favorable. On the other hand, large acreage reductions were made for soybeans throughout the entire Midwest in the same survey.
“The USDA’s new three-crop total for corn, soybeans and wheat acres is 217.3 million, down 8.8 million from 2018. According to USDA, the market got the nearly 9 million acre reduction in plantings it expected. What was not expected was how the lion’s share of the reductions went to soybeans,” Hultman continued.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service branch has already announced a new planting survey for corn, cotton, sorghum and soybeans will take place in July for 14 states and the results will be provided in USDA’s Crop Production report on August 12.
Hultman expects there to be adjustments in this upcoming August report. Although he says it’s difficult to predict, he estimates it would be 88 or 89 million planted acres of corn and 82 or 83 million acres of soybeans. Looking forward from there, the challenge will be to hone in on yield estimates and USDA’s first field survey on yields will be in September.
The summer weather is looking warmer and drier overall with the exception of in the northern Midwest. This includes the wettest areas in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan and Hultman expects there was likely some additional planting that got done and will be reported.
Bryce Anderson, senior agriculture meteorologist at DTN offers insight into what’s next for Midwest farmers. He says the next few weeks are hinting at a re-formation of the spring weather pattern, with the central U.S. having only a brief round of very warm to hot and dry conditions; in fact, forecast models are suggesting that the Midwest could get back into a mode of taking in heavy rainfall in mid-July, so the cool and wet pattern is likely not over for the Midwest.
While the discussion continues around the recent USDA acreage report, given the current weather patterns, the agriculture industry is also anxiously hoping there is enough of a growing season left for the plants to move through development, pollination, filling, and maturity stages before the first freeze of the fall season.