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Will USDA Print Record U.S. Corn Yield?

Weather has been excellent for harvest this year, and it shows in that almost every crop is ahead of normal harvest pace for this time of year.  That reflects the mostly dry conditions we've had through most of September and October across most of the country, which is perfect weather for harvest of fall crops including corn, soybeans, sunflowers, sorghum, sugarbeets, cotton, and planting of winter wheat.  

In crop progress numbers released yesterday afternoon, the numbers bear out what most farmers would have suspected - that the 2015 harvest could hardly have gone any better up to this point.

The next seven days will bring more rainfall, as it will be wetter than normal across the entire Midwest (a potential shift in the weather pattern?).  But that will be accompanied by warmer than normal temps, which should allow some harvest progress to result in between rains.  After all, the corn is already dry from the excellent drying weather in September and October, so that when the rains stop the combines will be able to roll.  Corn harvest is already 75% complete as of yesterday vs. 68% normally, so we are well ahead of normal progress.  

Soybean harvest is 87% complete vs. 80% normally, so we are nearing completion in the soybean crop other than double crop soybeans.  Overall, this has been an excellent harvest season such that there will be minimal harvest losses (and likely higher yields). Winter wheat planting is 83% complete vs. 85% normally, so recent rains have slowed down planting progress in winter wheat country.  But, they also will help germination and replenish depleted soil moisture in winter wheat country. So, overall, it might still help the winter wheat crop to have rains on the mostly planted crop.  62% of the winter wheat crop is emerged, equal to average.  Winter wheat crop conditions are rated 47% G/E in the first rating of the year, below last year's 59% rating at this time.  

Sorghum is 71% harvested vs. 61% normally at this time, so that harvest is going rapidly.  Cotton is 42% harvested vs. 43% normally at this time.  Sunflowers are 54% harvested vs. 44% normally, so the sunflower harvest is also going well, with the crop also dry and ready for harvest nationally as well.  Pasture and rangeland is rated 39% G/E, down 1% from last week and vs 49% last year at this time as we've had a dry September and October (thus the excellent harvest conditions).  However, the forecast is for wetter conditions the next 2 weeks nationwide, so that should help the pasture/rangeland conditions to recover somewhat. 

As we've said before, overall we have a very early harvest, with excellent yields and the corn coming off mostly dry (little drying needed if at all).  It's likely that USDA will need to hike projected corn yields in future reports (Nov. and January).  Since all the negative news is not yet built into the market (Pro Ag corn yield models are still 3.5 bu/acre above USDA numbers), it's likely we'll get negative November and January production numbers in corn yet.  Pro Ag yield model numbers indicate a new record high corn yield at 171.5 bu/acre, so we think USDA will hike corn yields 2 bu/acre in the November report to 170 bu/acre, and hike them another 1.5 bu/acre in the January final report to 171.5 bu/acre - a half bushel larger than last year's record crop!  Soybeans may also see larger yields in the November and Jan. reports, as harvest yields have been impressive to say the least, and harvest has gone quickly (little to no harvest losses).  

However, it's unlikely that soybean yields will be a record this year as our Pro Ag yield model final number was around 46.6 bu/acre, whereas USDA is already at 47.2 bu/acre in the October report.  But harvest was excellent and yields were better than expected, so the final soybean yield could be hiked slightly to perhaps 47.3 bu/acre.  But we don't expect soybean yields to top last year's record shattering yield.  All the negative news isn't in the market yet, so stay short. 

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