USDA: Corn harvest won't be as large as estimated, but soybeans could set a record

DES MOINES, Iowa – Rain that has washed out portions of fields in several corn-growing states prompted the government to lower its estimate of this year’s corn crop size, but soybean fields may actually produce more than earlier expected, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

June was uncommonly wet in portions of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Tennessee, with areas of those states reporting more than 12 inches of precipitation for the month.

Iowa, for example, had in June the fourth-wettest month in 141 years of records. Early June also delivered high winds, hail damage and flooding to some areas of the corn-growing states.

Factoring it all in, the USDA said the national average per acre yield of corn is expected to remain at a record 165.3 bushels per acre but the number of acres harvested will be about a half million less than expected last month at 83.8 million acres.

That resulted in a new estimate of 13.86 billion bushels of corn, 75 million bushels less than last month’s estimate.

The USDA noted that the corn crop appears to be in very good condition, but that much of the success for this year’s harvest depends on the weather as corn enters its critical pollination phase in mid-July.

“The crop looks good, but we know there are some big holes out there as far as all this ponding especially as you look from Iowa north you get out in the fields and you see these ponds where some of the crop got drowned out,” said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University.

Soybean production estimates were boosted to a record 3.8 billion bushels, which is 165 million bushels higher than last month’s estimate. That was raised because farmers are now expected to harvest 3.6 million additional acres than expected earlier this year.

The USDA said farmers have planted 84.8 million acres of soybeans, higher than earlier estimates of 81.5 million acres. They are expected to harvest 84.1 million acres, less than what was planted because of the wet fields.

The government lowered its estimate of prices for both corn and soybeans.

Corn is now expected to bring $3.65 to $4.35 a bushel, down 20 cents on both ends of the range from June’s estimate. Soybeans were lowered 25 cents to a range of $9.50 to $11.50 a bushel.