Too Early to Sell the 2017 Soybean Crop

September 28, 2016

There’s a nagging question farmers are wondering about as they harvest what is quite likely to be their best soybean crop ever. Is it so good, so plentiful, that it might be time to consider selling some of next year’s crop.



Let’s start with some plain facts. The price of soybeans from April through August was higher, on average, than it was in the prior seven months. This says Darrel Good is because the trade expected there to be a whole lot of soybeans leftover from last years harvest by the time right now arrived. Something like 450 million bushels. That didn’t happen. The South American crop failed and U.S. exports jumped by 250 million bushels. Like most of the previous years, all but one since 2008, this left fewer than 200 bushels in the bin from the previous season’s soybean crop. Here’s how Good, a University of Illinois Agricultural Economist, says that should all play out in the coming months.

With consumption during the 2016–17 marketing already projected to be record large, an increase in the average yield forecast (without an unexpected decline in the estimate of harvested acreage) would likely result in an increase in the current projection of year-ending stocks of 365 million bushels. Two additional factors point to the potential for additional weakness in soybean prices during the 2016–17 marketing year. -Darrel Good

First, and you can read this on the Farm Doc Daily website, USDA expects a modest increase in soybean acreage for harvest in South America next year. While an increase of only 1.5 percent is currently projected (mostly in Brazil), normal yield levels result in a projected 3.5 percent (220 million bushels) year-over-year increase in soybeans from the southern hemisphere. If that large crop materializes, the pace of U.S. exports would be expected to experience the normal sharp seasonal decline beginning in the spring of 2017. A second factor that could contribute to lower soybean prices, says Darrel Good, is an increase in soybean acreage in the U.S. next year.

While it is too early to form solid expectations about U.S. acreage, low prices of other commodities relative to soybeans would be expected to result in some switch away from those crops to soybeans. In particular, the large increase in corn acreage in 2016, prospects for relatively large year-ending corn inventories, and the relatively high cost of producing corn would be expected to result in fewer corn acres in 2017. Futures prices for the 2017 corn and wheat crops are higher than prices for the 2016 crop, but those prices are still low relative to prices for the 2017 soybean crop. The USDA’s Winter Wheat Seedings report released in the second week of January 2017 will provide the first indication of acreage response to current price levels. The size of the 2017 soybean crop will still largely hinge on the average yield. It will be interesting to observe if three consecutive years of above trend U.S. average soybean yields will alter early expectations for the average yield in 2017.

Here’s what Darrel Good thinks this all means at the moment. With so much production uncertainty over the next 10 months, a strong pace of Chinese buying, and the recent history of smaller than expected year-ending stocks, it is not completely surprising that the market is not yet reflecting the potential for a growing surplus of soybeans during the 2017–18 marketing year. The question for producers, he says, is whether or not current prices offer a pricing opportunity for a portion of the 2017 crop.

The answer is more likely to be yes for those who intend to increase soybean acreage in response to the current corn, wheat, and soybean price relationships.