Barge rates ease, WASDE little changed

Growers, especially those with river access, can still get a good price for their corn and beans in storage—but they shouldn’t wait too long to sell.

That was the take-away message of Jim Mintert, director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue University, discussing the Nov. 9 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Barge rates have dropped 50% since their mid-harvest high, as some slight rain relief, along with dredging of hot spots by the Corps of Engineers, has allowed grain cargoes to continue to move on river systems, even if at reduced volumes and tow sizes.

Adjustments to yield estimates in the Nov. 9 WASDE report by the USDA were small.

Wheat food use higher

The wheat outlook for 2022-23 forecast stable supplies, increased domestic use, unchanged exports, and slightly lower ending stocks. Total domestic use was projected at 5 million bushels higher at 1,093 million as an increase in food use more than offset a decrease in seed use. Food use for wheat was raised by 7 million bushels to a record 977 million bushels, on a strong calendar year third quarter wheat ground for flour reported in the latest NASS Flour Milling Products report.

All wheat exports were unchanged at 775 million bushels, with offsetting changes for white and durum wheat. Projected 2022-23 ending stocks were lowered by 5 million bushels to 571 million, the lowest level since 2007-08. The projected 2022-23 season average farm price was unchanged at $9.20 per bushel.

Corn yields down in west, southeast

The Nov. 9 U.S. corn outlook for 2022-23 was for higher production, larger feed and residual use and greater ending stocks. Corn production was forecast at 13.930 billion bushels. That was up 35 million from last month on a 0.4-bushel increase in yield to 172.3 bushels per acre.

Regionally, the drought affected yields in most western states. Texas had the biggest yield drop, down 6% from the previous month, and down 26.6% from the previous year. Oklahoma’s corn yields were down. 18.7% from 2021, while Kansas yields were down 17.3% and Nebraska’s were down by 13.4% from the previous year. Corn yields went up in only six states: California, Washington, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois and Virginia. North Dakota’s yields were 36.2% above 2021’s.

Feed and residual use of corn was higher, based on the larger crop. With supply rising more than use, corn ending stocks were raised by 10 million bushels. The season-average corn price received by producers remained unchanged at $6.80 per bushel.

Nathan Thompson, associate professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, said that while barge rates were down, the strong U.S. dollar was still holding back some U.S. exports. Nevertheless, corn basis was strengthening on tight supply and carryover. Corn basis in southern Illinois and Indiana improved to match historic averages in November, showing the effects of the barge rate drop, which Mintert called the “key metric” in recent figures.

Soybeans show few changes

The WASDE forecasts for soybeans also showed little change from the October estimates. Texas showed a soybean yield decline of 6.1% from the previous month, and an 18% decline from 2021 yields. Yield estimates were bumped up in Minnesota, North Dakota, Mississippi, Arkansas and South Carolina but declined elsewhere.

Soybean exports picked up in the last few weeks, although Chinese imports of both corn and soybeans were still weak—possibly related to persistent lockdowns of Chinese cities to control COVID-19 outbreaks and to lower pork prices in China.

David Murray can be reached at [email protected].