From bust to boom: Big crops highlight need for strong ag markets

IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. comments on the finishing touches of this year's harvest and the trade agreements that help to move crops to customers.

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By Jeff Brown

Thinking back to August, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. wasn’t too worried about who would buy this year’s crops. He wasn’t sure there’d be much of a crop to buy in the first place.

He and other farmers had watched the growing season span the full spectrum of weather conditions – from flood to drought and back again – in some parts of the state. Which is why the Randolph County farmer recalls being a bit puzzled as to how USDA could predict such high yields and large overall corn and soybean output in its late-summer crop reports.

But Guebert’s yield monitor showed surprisingly high numbers this fall, and his thoughts have returned where his crops are going to go.

IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. said this year’s higher-than-expected crop yields show the strength of the corn and soybean genetics farmers have to work with.
IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. said this year’s higher-than-expected crop yields show the strength of the corn and soybean genetics farmers have to work with.

“We’re in pretty good shape,” Guebert told the RFD Radio Network®. “Our hill corn was not what we thought it would be, but it was better than we thought in June, when we had all the heat.

“Double-crop beans were where they normally are,” he continued. “And we ended on a high note down at the river bottoms, our flooded corn ground. We were pleasantly surprised at the yields down there. So that was a good way to end the harvest.”

In its most recent crop report, USDA projected a record-high national average corn yield of 174.6 bushels per acre, up more than 3 bushels from just the previous month’s report. In total, USDA anticipates the second-biggest corn crop ever at 14.6 billion bushels.

For soybeans, record acreage will likely push production to a new all-time high of 4.4 billion bushels, USDA says.

Related: South American farmers could face challenges. Click here

The sheer size of the crops has stressed the importance of storage and updating aged transportation infrastructure. But most of all, it’s highlighting the need to build additional customer demand.

“We’ve got a big crop to move,” Guebert said. “You listen to what’s going on in Washington D.C., and with the president being over in Asia visiting those countries, and then the rhetoric that’s bouncing around about possibly withdrawing from NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), it really gives our members a lot of heartburn.”

An American Farm Bureau Federation Market Intel analysis cited some positive signs for corn demand. For instance, domestic demand for food, feed and industrial uses are all predicted to rise, if only slightly.

However, USDA anticipates a sharp decline in corn export demand – as much as 19 percent, in fact.

The story has a happier ending for soybeans, with surging Chinese demand pushing soybean consumption projections to new highs.

For both corn and soybeans, exports through the first 12 weeks of the current marketing year are off to slower starts than last year, according to the AFBF analysis.

“We really need good export and trade agreements to move this product out into the world market,” Guebert said.

Related: What’s next? Consuming the record-setting U.S. corn and soybean crops. Click here.

Guebert said the harvest season emergency declaration has been helpful in making crop delivery more efficient for Illinois farmers.

“I was at a county board meeting last night, and a number of members have used it and appreciate it,” he said Wednesday. “It works to move this product out of the field and into the elevator and from the elevator to the terminals.”

He said other challenges remain, though, as some elevators have reached capacity or dryers have not been able to keep up with the large amount of wet corn coming in.

He also reminded farmers to obtain all necessary permits before hauling overweight loads to the elevator under the harvest season emergency.

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