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By Tori Uhland

February 23, 2024

February is a pretty big data month in the agriculture world with the annual USDA Ag Outlook Conference as well as crop insurance prices being set for corn. This year had a little extra information with the release of the data from the 2022 Agricultural Census which I talked about last week. Since the conference was still happening at the time of my writing, I didn’t get a chance to talk about the numbers that came out of the Ag Outlook Conference.

Initial 2024-25 acreage estimates from the USDA indicate expectations for a total acreage of corn, wheat and soybeans to be 225.5 million acres versus last year’s 227.8 million. The cotton area is expected to rise 11.0 million acres from last year’s 10.2 million. I generally don’t talk much about cotton, but there are some pretty astonishing numbers in that market – this past year marked the lowest number of cotton acres harvested in over 150 years. That is not a typo; the last time the harvested acreage numbers were this low was in 1868. This is largely due to the crippling drought in the southwest region of the United States.

For corn acres, the initial idea from the USDA is 91.0 million acres compared to 94.641 last year. The average trade guess was 91.8 million acres, baseline projection is 91.0 million acres. All wheat planted area came in at 47.0 million acres versus 49.575 last year. The baseline balance sheet assumes 48.0 million acres and the average trade guess was 47.5 million. For soybeans, the USDA is looking at 87.5 million acres compared to 83.6 million acres last year and a baseline projection of 87.0.

Corn ending stocks in the United States proved to be lower than the February USDA estimates in five of the last seven years, but the current 2023-24 ending stocks number of 2.172 billion bushels is significantly higher than initial ideas during the 2023 Outlook Forum where it came in at 1.887 billion bushels. The preliminary estimate for the 2024-25 ending stocks came in at 2.532 billion bushels, which is up by 360 million bushels or 17 percent from this year. The USDA is also starting the 2024-25 marketing year with an estimated yield of 181 bushels per acre. That yield or anything above the 177.3 bushels per acre in 2023-24 would be a new record. With a carryout this high and domestic demand this poor, it is hard to find much that would stop the bleed in current corn prices.

The USDA is estimating 2024-25 wheat ending stocks at 769 million bushels, compared to this year’s ending stocks of 658 million bushels, so we are continuing to build stocks there as well. The U.S wheat ending stocks have bias for proving to be higher than the February USDA number; it has happened in 8 of the last 10 years.

In 12 of the last 16 years, soybean ending stocks have been biased towards being lower than the February USDA numbers. However, 2023-24 ending stocks are currently estimated to be 315 million bushels, which is slightly above their idea last year of 290 million bushels. The USDA is estimating 2024-25 ending stocks to be 435 million bushels.

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