South Dakota is poised to have its highest soybean production year on record, as timely plantings, sufficient but not excessive rainfall and a late frost created the perfect growing climate.
The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service expects the state's soybean crop this year to reach 234 million bushels, a 2 percent jump from last year. Yield is forecast at 46 bushels per acre — another record — while South Dakota's acres for harvest remain unchanged at 5.11 million acres.
"I've talked to so many farmers that have told me that this has been my best crop ever," said Jeremy Freking, executive director of the South Dakota Soybean Association. "And we aren't that far removed from 2012 when we had one of our worst crops ever because we had the bad drought."
Nationally, soybean production is forecast at a record 3.98 billion bushels, up 1 percent from last year. Based on conditions at the beginning of the month, yields are expected to average 48.3 bushels per acre, up 0.8 bushel from last year.
The USDA said increased U.S. production has led to higher-than-expected stockpiles, which has been driving down prices. Soybean futures for January were trading at about $8.50 a bushel Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, down from more than $9.20 in mid-October.
Freking said he hopes that prices have stabilized, and that this year's high yields should help South Dakota farmers weather the recent drop.
Alvaro Garcia, agriculture and natural resources program director for South Dakota State University Extension, said farmers should also be keeping an eye on the upcoming Nov. 22 presidential election runoff in Argentina. Argentina produces about 16 percent of the world's soybeans, and the USDA has warned that a new government looking to stimulate economic growth in the country could thrust its inventories onto the market, which could further drive down prices.
"If they go on to a very severe devaluation, soybeans will suffer because Argentines will produce at a lower price," Garcia said. "That might hurt the market."
The United States and Brazil each grow about 27 percent of the world's soybean crop, according to the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.
North Dakota's 2015 soybean production is forecast at 190 million bushels, down 6 percent from last year. Average yield in the state is forecast at 33 bushels per acre, down 1.5 bushels from 2014. Harvested acres of 5.77 million acres are down 2 percent.