Record yields driving soybean production gains
In October, USDA raised its 2016/17 forecast of the U.S. average soybean yield to a record 51.4 bushels. Coupled with a harvested acreage estimate of 83 million acres, the higher yield boosts forecasted soybean production by 68 million bushels to 4.3 billion. The largest production gains are due to higher acreage and yield indications for North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois. These increases more than offset reductions in acreage and production for Minnesota, Iowa, and Tennessee. The 4.3 billion bushel forecast would be a record for U.S. production, while 2014/15 and 2015/16 production would become the second and third highest harvests, respectively. Much of the production gains are attributable to significant gains in yields which have increased from 38.1 bushels per acre in 2000/01 to 48 bushels per acre in the 2015/16 marketing year. Growing conditions for soybeans this year were nearly ideal. Spring planting for soybeans proceeded without any major delays. During the summer growing season, the Midwestern soybean-growing region benefited from much-above-average rainfall and there were no prolonged dry or hot spells to stress crops. Gains in production are leading to higher forecasted ending stocks and increases in exports, reducing downward pressure on domestic soybean prices. This chart uses data from the ERS Oil Crops Yearbook dataset and the ERS Oil Crops Outlook report released in October 2016.