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From the Editor

RSS By: Brian Grete, Pro Farmer

Pro Farmer Editor Brian Grete takes time to talk with Pro Farmer Members about some of the key issues in each week's Pro Farmer newsletter.

Most of the time, USDA says USDA's number is right

Jun 28, 2013

Chip Flory

From The Editor

June 28, 2013

Hello Pro Farmer Members!

It's always interesting dissecting USDA reports. Interesting... and frustrating.

One of the key indicators I was anticipating ahead of the report was how harvested corn acres compared to planted corn acres. Normally, the U.S. harvests about 92% of planted acres. Most of the difference is due to silage harvest, the rest is due to abandoned acres.

However, because the country only needs "so much" silage, the higher the planted acreage tally, the harvested acreage percentage should also climb as a smaller percentage of the crop is bound for the bunker or the bag.

In this morning's Acreage Report, USDA indicates a harvested acreage percentage of 91.5%. And, yes... that's a significant change. If the harvested acreage percentage would have been a typical 92%, total harvested acres would be about 450,000 more than estimated by USDA. That's nearly 70 million bu. of corn.

More importantly, the lower-than-normal harvested acreage percentage indicates the survey did pick up at least some of the problems across the Midwest. The "problems" referred to were indicated by the survey respondents. That means the report does include some corn acres that were planted, but have been washed-out, ponded-out, etc.-out and won't be harvested. As a matter of fact, it includes about 450,000 of acres that were planted to corn, but now won't be harvested. That might not be far from right. It looks like USDA's survey work did account for the washed-out areas.

Or did it?

If the corn harvested acreage percentage "makes sense," the soybean harvested acreage percentage should too. Right? Well... it doesn't.

In 2009, farmers harvested 98.6% of planted bean acres. In 2010, the harvested bean acreage percentage jumped to 98.98%. In 2011, just 98.2% of planted bean acres were harvested and 98.6% of 2012's planted bean acres were harvested.

In 2013, today's Acreage Report indicates a harvested acreage percentage of 98.98%... the same as in 2010 and higher than in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

This suggests none of the washed-out, ponded-out and etc.-out bean acres have been factored into the harvested bean acreage estimate. Most likely, that's because nearly 27% of the U.S. bean crop was unplanted when the survey was taken. Those intended bean acres are expected to be planted (many haven't been yet in northern Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota) and most are expected to be harvested. That's a stretch.

So... what difference does it make?

At the 98.98% harvested acreage percentage, NASS says we'll harvest 76.918 million acres of the 77.728 million planted to beans. So for every 0.1 point decline in the harvested acreage percentage, take 77,728 acres off the harvested acreage estimate. At 42 bu. per acre, that's about 3.265 million bushels of beans per 0.1 decline in the harvested acreage percentage.

If the harvested acreage percentage falls to 2011's 98.2% (0.7 percentage points below this year's estimate), take off 544,096 acres from harvested acres. At 42 bu. per acre, that's about 23 million bushels of beans. So to answer the question at the start of this section: It doesn't make much difference.

This is also one of the reasons USDA says it will resurvey for planted and harvested acreage intentions for soybeans in July. That data will be available for use in the August Crop Production Report.

No resurvey of corn acres

Unfortunately, there was no indication of a resurvey of corn plantings. That's because USDA says only 3.4% of the acres intended to be planted were left to be planted during the survey period.

3.4%? At 97.379 million acres, that's about 3.31 million acres that weren't planted in the first two weeks of June... but that were intended to be planted... and harvested. That's a significant number and many of those acres are in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. Those acres represent at least 500 million bushels of corn... and today's report says those acres were planted.

Some were... many weren't. In my opinion, it still makes sense to work with a planted corn acreage estimate of 95.0-95.3 million acres. But we won't. We'll work with USDA's number because USDA determines which number is right -- and most of the time, USDA says USDA's number is right.

And without a resurvey of corn planted acres, this is a number we'll likely have to live with until the October Crop Production Report. That's the first real chance for USDA's NASS to tap into certified acreage data from the FSA. That certified acreage doesn't "set" the NASS estimate, but it can be another important data point in the acreage estimate.

That's it for now...

I'm going to be off next week to enjoy some time with family and friends. I hope to see many of you at the Leading Edge Conference July 8-9!

Follow me on Twitter at @ChipFlory

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