WILLAg Notes

August 27, 2015

Free & Confidential Tile Line Water Test at Farm Progress Show

Nine states in the Mississippi River basin have developed strategies to control the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous making its way to the Gulf of Mexico. These plant nutrients contribute to the Hypoxia Zone. During the Farm Progress Show the Illinois Corn Growers Association is offering free tile line water sample testing to help make farmers aware of the plan and the problem.

Let’s start with the problem. The fertilizers used on lawns, gardens, and farms doesn’t always stay put. It leaches into streams and rivers and is carried to the Gulf of Mexico where the plant nutrients cause great algae blooms. These deplete the water of oxygen and aquatic life.
The plan is to voluntarily reduce the plant nutrient load. The first step says Illinois Corn Growers Director of Communications Tricia Braid is to make farmers aware of just how much nitrogen is being lost from their fields. That’s why the Corn Growers are offering free water sample testing at the Farm Progress Show.

Quote Summary - Because farmers want to keep the nutrients applied for the crop where the crop needs it. If it is starting to move out of your tiles, that is lost money for the farmer and also a potential problem for the water quality. So we are working at awareness here and helping people get an understanding of what nitrogen movement means on their farms.

This awareness campaign is also related to the recent release of the Illinois Nutrient Reduction Loss strategy. It is a document put forth by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Agriculture that sets some clean water goals for all the stake holders in Illinois to achieve.

Quote Summary - So, agriculture plays a big part in that. We are not the only people involved. We understand that, but we certainly do have a role to play. The example we have for the Decatur area, the site of the Farm Progress Show, is that on average tile drained ground in the Sangamon River Watershed loses about 26 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year. That adds up. If it is leaving the tile, it is not helping the crop, and it is going somewhere unintended. We really want folks to understand how nutrients are moving at different times of the year.

Those wanting to have their tile line water tested can bring an 8 ounce sample to the Illinois Corn Growers Association tent at the Farm Progress Show. Collect the sample within 48 hours of arriving. Keep it refrigerated until you leave for the show. If you’d like more results you can do a flow test. Just count off how many seconds it takes the tile line to fill a five gallon bucket.


August 24, 2015

Corn Prices Reflect Export Concerns

December corn futures have been on roller coaster ride up and down this year. First it appeared there would be way to much of the grain, and then - because of the rains - maybe too little, and now it feels like the too-little might become just enough.

The just enough to meet the need has put pressure on the market to move lower. This weakness, writes Darrel Good in this week’s online Farm Doc Daily article, is coming from the supply side. There is a general agreement USDA’s corn production forecast will not increase. It, in August, put this fall’s corn harvest at 13.686 billion bushels. Instead, market commentary seems to suggest the trade is expecting the yield forecast to decline by as much as three to four bushels to the acre. So the crop is getting smaller, but so’s the price. It’s about demand says Good. Continuing weakness in corn prices reflects perceived demand weakness. Concerns about demand may stem from two sources. First is the concern that exports of U.S corn will fall short of the current USDA projection of 1.85 billion bushels. Second, is the concern about slow economic growth domestically and globally.

Clearly, domestic consumption of corn during the 2015–16 marketing year is not of immediate concern. The USDA projection of 5.25 billion bushels of corn used for ethanol production is consistent with the 5.2 billion expected for the marketing year just ending and a modest increase in domestic gasoline consumption next year.

The projection of 5.3 billion bushels for feed and residual use next year equals the projection for the current year. Another large crop implies large residual use of corn and low corn prices along with steady to higher animal numbers should support actual feed consumption of corn. On-the-other-hand USDA projects corn exports during the 2015–16 marketing year that begins on September 1 at 1.85 billion bushels, equal to the projection for the current year. However, total outstanding sales of U.S. corn for export during the 2015–16 marketing year are relatively small says Darrel Good.

It is recognized that the magnitude of early sales is not a good predictor of marketing year exports. Since 2005, sales as of mid-August as a percentage of marketing year exports have ranged from about eight percent (2005–06) to 42 percent (2012–13) and averaged 18 percent. Current sales represent 12 percent of the USDA projection for the upcoming marketing year. Still, the small export sales total is concerning in the context of potentially weak world demand, the relatively strong U.S. dollar, and expectations of large supplies of corn in other exporting countries.

Factually, with nearly 55 weeks remaining until the end of the 2015–16 marketing year, export sales need to average about 30 million bushels per week in order for exports to reach 1.85 billion bushels. Here’s how this all plays out on the farm. Producers will need to evaluate the corn storage decision says Darrel Good. Current low prices mean farmers will likely choose to store much of the crop that has not yet been priced. The current basis in the cash market and the carry in the futures market give some indication about the potential return to storing corn. In central Illinois, for example, the average cash bid for harvest delivery reflects a basis of about -$.30 relative to December 2015 contract and -$0.52 relative to July 2016 futures. Good says if the July basis improves to about -$.05 by June 2016 (as it did this year) the market is offering about $0.47 per bushel to store corn for about nine months.

That return would cover the out of pocket costs of farm storage, but may be closer to breakeven for commercial storage costs for some producers. The only way to capture the storage return, however, is to forward price the stored crop in the cash or futures market. The spot price of corn will have to increase by more than $0.47 by next spring in order for the return on corn stored unpriced to exceed the likely return to a storage hedge.


August 11, 2015

How Crop Production Reports are Collected

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will release the first survey-based yield and production forecasts for the 2015 corn and soybean crops this month. Even though a description of the NASS crop production forecast methodology is widely available, there always seems to be some misconceptions about how NASS makes corn and soybean yield forecasts. University of Illinois agricultural economists Darrel Good and Scott Irwin put together a brief overview of that methodology and posted it to the FarmDocDaily website.

While they say their summary does not do full justice to the very comprehensive forecasting methodology, it is useful to place the upcoming yield forecasts in the proper perspective.

NASS corn and soybean yield forecasts are made in August, September, October and November. The final yield estimate is released in January based on the comprehensive December Agricultural Survey of producers. Two types of surveys are used each month to collect the forecast data.

The Monthly Agricultural Yield Survey (AYS) of producers is conducted in 32 states for corn and 29 states for soybeans with a total of about 25,000 producers surveyed for all crops in August. The Objective Yield Survey (OYS) is conducted in 10 states for corn and 11 states for soybeans. The surveys are generally conducted in a two week period ending about a week before the release of the forecasts.

For the Agricultural Yield Survey, a sample of farm operations to be surveyed is drawn from those who responded to the June acreage survey. While the sample of operations to be surveyed changes from year-to-year, for any particular year the same operations are interviewed each month from August through November. Survey respondents are asked to identify the number of acres of corn and soybeans to be harvested and to provide a forecast of the final yield of each crop. Based on these responses, average yields are forecast for each survey state and for the nation.

The goal of the Objective Yield Survey program is to generate yield forecasts based on actual plant counts and measurements .The sample of fields (1,920 for corn and 1,835 for soybeans) is selected from farms that reported corn (soybeans) planted or to be planted in the June acreage survey. A random sample of fields is drawn with the probability of selection of any particular field being proportional to the size of the tract. Two plots are then randomly selected in each field.

Data collected from each corn plot during the forecast cycle are used to measure the size of the unit and to measure or forecast the number of ears and grain weight. These data include (as available based on maturity) row width, number of stalks per row, number of stalks with ears or ear shoots per row, number of ears with kernels, kernel row length, ear diameter, ear weight in dent stage, weight of shelled grain, moisture content, total ear weight of harvested unit, lab weight of sample ears, weight of grain from sample ears, and moisture content of shelled grain from sample of mature ears. Corn yield is forecast based on the forecast (or measurement if maturity allows) of the number of ears, the weight per ear, and harvest loss.

Data collected from soybean plots (as available based on maturity) include row width; number of plants in each row; number of main stem nodes, lateral branches, dried flowers and pods, and pods with beans; weight and moisture content of beans harvested by enumerator; and weight and moisture content of harvest loss. The data collected are used to forecast yield based on a forecast (or measurement if maturity allows) of the number of plants per acre, the number of pods with beans per plant, the average bean weight, and harvest loss.

For both corn and soybeans, the state average yield forecast based on the Objective Yield Survey is the simple average of the yields for all the sample fields. In addition, a state yield forecast is also made by first averaging the forecast or actual yield factors (such as stalk counts, ear counts, and ear weight) and then forecasting the state average yield directly from these averages. This forecast is based on a regression analysis of the historical relationship (15 years) between the yield factors and the state average yield. State average yields are combined to forecast the U.S. average yield.

The NASS corn and soybean survey and forecasting procedures produce a number of indictors of the average yield. In August these indicators include: average field level yields from the Objective Yield Survey, average state level counts from the Objective Yield Survey, and the average yield reported by farmers in the Agricultural Yield Survey. Each of the indicators provides input into the determination of the official yield forecasts by the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board.

The accuracy of the USDA yield forecasts, write Darrel Good and Scott Irwin, relative to the final yield estimates varies from year to year, but as would be expected, improves each month through the forecast cycle as the crops become more mature.

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Links

Understanding USDA Crop Forecast

Marketing & Outlook Brief


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