Corn prices dive as USDA predictions show increase in fall yields

By Jessie Higgins
A cornfield in rural Keokuk County, Iowa, August 6, 2019. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI.
A cornfield in rural Keokuk County, Iowa, August 6, 2019. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI. | License Photo

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The price for corn tumbled Monday afternoon after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its latest crop estimates, showing farmers have planted far more acres this year than private analysts anticipated.

Corn prices were down 25 cents per bushel Monday afternoon, which is the greatest decline in a day that is allowed by federal law, said Sal Gilbertie, the president and chief investment officer of Teucrium Trading, a Vermont-based company that sponsors agriculturally focused exchange traded products.


"It's a huge deal," Gilbertie said. "We're at the limit-down for corn. We haven't seen limit-down in corn since -- I can't remember when."

But though the market tends follows the official federal predictions, the difference between the government estimates and those from the private sector are so stark that some question the veracity of the USDA's numbers.

"There does seem to be a disconnect somewhere because the [USDA's] acreage estimate for corn planted in Illinois is higher than what our farmer-members are telling us is out there, and higher than the numbers that are being shared anecdotally by crop insurance agents," the Illinois Corn Growers Association said in a statement.


According to the USDA, there are 90 million acres of planted corn. That estimate is down from the agency's June estimate of 91.7 million -- but nowhere near what analysts expected. The average trade estimate is 87.7 million acres, according to Successful Farming.

Even more surprising, Gilbertie said, the USDA's latest prediction for corn yields increased from 166 bushels per acre in June to 169.5. That means the agency's estimate for total corn production has increased to 13.9 billion bushels.

"No one expected that," Gilbertie said.

AccuWeather analysts, for example, predict the total 2019 production to be 13.07 billion bushels.

"The difference between the estimates centers on forecasts for projected corn acres harvested," according to AccuWeather. The average trade estimate for 2019 production is 13.1 billion bushels, according to Successful Farming.

Across the Midwest, farmers have encountered poor weather for crop rearing. Historically heavy rains during the spring delayed or prevented millions of acres from being planted. Then, as spring gave way to summer, many areas experienced unusually dry weather, which threatened to kill off newly planted fields.

What's more, because many acres were planted far later than normal, farmers fear the crops will not mature enough by harvest time for optimal yields.


"Corn needs a certain amount of heat throughout the growing season to mature," said Tricia Braid, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

With so many conflicting reports, corn prices will likely remain volatile until fall harvest, Gilbertie said.

"We'll have to wait and see," he said. "As we get closer to harvest, the numbers will become less an estimate and more reality. All of this is just a guess at this point. Anything can happen."

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