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Stu Ellis: Projecting Crop Production and Trade

Feb 12, 2013

USDA’s 10 year projections for commodity production, economics, and trade were released February 11, the second in a series of long term agricultural projections from the federal government.  The Congressional Budget Office released its data a week ago, with both pushing and pulling on the market with their focus on the 2013 crop.  The USDA’s specific projections for the new crop year will be released February 21 & 22 at the Agricultural Outlook Forum.

The USDA report is based on normal weather, no economic surprises, and production trends.  While they may not have the surprise that makes for excitement in the market place, the projections refine trends that are important to the market.

Instead of summarizing the 105 pages of data, significant trends were selected, many of them for the next 10 years:

US and global economy:

  • Global economic growth is forecast at 3.3%, while US economic growth is forecast at 2.6%.
  • Overall, birth rates will decline, but 82% of the population growth will be in developing nations.
  • The value of the dollar will continue to depreciate, which will enhance exports.
  • Oil prices that have recently averaged $93 per barrel, will average $120 by the end  of the decade.
  • About 35% of corn use will be for ethanol, but production increases will slow as demand for gasoline slows.
  • World meat demand grows at an annual rate of 1.8%, primarily in Africa and the Mid-east.
  • Prices for many major crops are projected to decline in the near term as global production responds to recent high prices. But prices will hold above pre-2007 levels.
  • Improved livestock-sector net returns provide economic incentives for expansion.
  • Over the latter half of the projection period, livestock prices generally rise, reflecting a moderate pace of production expansion combined with increasing domestic use and export demand.
  • Farm income is projected to reach a record high nominal level in 2013 reflecting high commodity prices as well as large crop insurance indemnities paid to the sector. Although projected to decline from this record as commodity prices retreat, strengthening global food demand, a weaker dollar, and sustained biofuel demand keep net farm income historically high over the projection period.
  • While some slowing is expected, China’s economic growth is expected to average around 7.8 percent over the next decade. This growth in per capita income is expected to move a significant number of people out of poverty and continue to boost food demand.

US Crops:

  • In the short term, the U.S. crops sector responds to continuing high prices for most crops in 2012/13. Planted area for the 8 major field crops in 2013 is projected at more than 254 million acres. While that is down from the large acreage planted in 2012 when favorable spring weather combined with strong economic incentives, 2013 plantings would be the second largest acreage since 2000.
  • The combination of world economic growth, a depreciating dollar, and continued expansion of global biofuels production supports longer run gains in world consumption and trade of crops.
  • Acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is projected to decline below 28 million acres in 2013-14 before rising back to close to 32 million acres by the end of projection period.
  • Assuming that corn planting progress by the middle of May 2013 is at the average over the past 10 years of 80 percent, that June weather is not extremely dry, and that average weather occurs in July, the model suggests a 2013 corn yield of about 164.3 bushels an acre.
  • After the 96.9 mil planted acres in 2012 and a projected 96 mil. in 2013, USDA expects corn acreage will decline and float between 88 and 92 million.
  • Average corn prices will drop to $5.40 for the new crop and never above $5 for a yearly average  through 2023.
  • Similarly, with average July-August weather and June weather that is not extremely dry, the soybean model suggests a 2013 yield of 44.6 bushels an acre. The weighted average of soybean yield estimates for alternative levels of July-August precipitation results in a lower mean expected soybean yield for 2013 of 44.5 bushels per acre.
  • Strong wheat prices and expected net returns boost wheat plantings for 2013. However, with relatively weak overall demand growth projected for wheat, producer returns initially fall and then rise less than returns for other crops in subsequent years. This leads to a decline in wheat plantings to 50 million acres by the end of the projection period.
  • U.S. soybean plantings decline from high levels of 2012 during the initial years of the projections, as prices and producer returns fall. Over the rest of the projection period, growth in both domestic use and export demand lead to increases in prices and returns. Soybean plantings increase somewhat before remaining steady toward the end of the projections.
  • Soybean plantings are expected to reach 77 million acres this year, and float between 74 and 76 million. Agricultural Trade:
  • Global trade in soybeans and soybean products has risen rapidly since the early 1990s, and has surpassed global trade in wheat and total coarse grains.  Continued strong growth in global demand for vegetable oil and protein meal, particularly in China and other Asian countries, is expected to maintain soybean and soybean-product trade well above wheat and coarse grain trade throughout the next decade.
  • World soybean trade is projected to rise rapidly during the next 10 years, but at a slower pace than in recent years, climbing nearly 39 million tons (37 percent), to 144 million tons.
  • China’s soybean imports have risen sharply and now account for more than half of world trade. Over the coming decade, China will face policy decisions regarding the tradeoffs between producing and importing corn and soybeans. The projections assume that Chinese policies will pursue increasing corn production and letting soybean imports increase to fill the shortfall in domestic production.
  • World coarse grain trade is projected to increase 27 percent between 2013/14 and 2022/23. During this period, corn is expected gain an increasing share of world coarse grain trade. The expansion of livestock production in feed-deficit countries continues to be the principal driver.
  • China’s imports of corn are projected to rise steadily and reach 19.6 million tons by 2022/23. China’s strengthening domestic demand for corn is driven by its expanding livestock and industrial sectors.
  • U.S. corn exports are projected to rebound in 2013/14 and then trend upward to a record high by 2022/23. However, the U.S. share of world corn exports only rises to 46 percent, well below the 65 percent average share during the two decades preceding 2010/11.
  • World wheat trade (including flour) is projected to expand by 22 million tons (16 percent) between 2013/14 and 2022/23, rising to nearly 164 million tons. Growth in wheat imports is concentrated in those developing countries where income and population gains drive increases in demand.

Source: Farmgateblog