ERS Charts of Note
Thursday, July 31, 2014
With the 2014/15 (September/August marketing years) soybean production forecast at a record 103.4 million metric tons (3.8 billion bushels), the United States is expected to reclaim the role of leading global soybean exporter that it lost to Brazil in 2012/13. A record harvested area of 84.1 million acres is expected to enhance U.S. price competitiveness and boost U.S. soybean exports to a record 45.6 million metric tons (mmt). U.S. soybean meal and oil exports are also expected to increase, with soybean meal shipments abroad forecast to edge up to 10.66 mmt in 2014/15 from 10.57 mmt this year, and soybean oil exports could reach 0.95 mmt, up from 0.77 mmt in 2013/14. If achieved, the plentiful US supplies will drive farm prices lower. USDA forecasts the U.S. average farm price for soybeans in 2014/15 to fall within a range of $9.50-11.50 per bushel, down from an estimated $13.00 per bushel in 2013/14. The last time the U.S. farm price for soybeans averaged below $12.00 per bushel for a crop year was in 2010/11 when it reached $11.30 per bushel, a record at the time. Find this chart in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with additional analysis in the Oil Crops Outlook: July 2014.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
By leaving at least 30 percent of crop residue covering the soil surface after all tillage and planting operations, conservation tillage (including no-till, ridge-till, and mulch-till) reduces soil erosion, increases water retention, and reduces soil degradation and water/chemical runoff. Conservation tillage also reduces the carbon footprint of agriculture. By 2006, approximately 86 percent of land planted with herbicide tolerant (HT) soybeans was under conservation tillage, compared to only 36 percent of conventional soybean acres. Differences in the use of no-till were just as pronounced. While approximately 45 percent of HT soybean acres were cultivated using no-till technologies in 2006, only 5 percent of the acres planted with conventional seeds were cultivated using no-till techniques, which are often considered the most effective of all conservation tillage systems. Cotton and corn data exhibit similar, though less pronounced, patterns. This chart is found in “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 Amber Waves online magazine.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Double-cropped acreage has varied from year to year. Because decisions about double cropping are made annually, fluctuations are likely as farmers respond to changing market and weather conditions. For example, higher commodity prices give farmers more incentive to intensify production and could offset revenue shortfalls from lower potential yields when double cropping. From 2004 to 2012, total double-cropped acreage roughly paralleled soybean, winter wheat, and corn prices. When commodity prices at the time of planting decisions were increasing or relatively high, total double-cropped acreage also increased. Total double-cropped acreage peaked at 10.9 million acres in 2008, when prices for soybeans, winter wheat, and corn also peaked. In 2005 and 2010, nearly every region witnessed declines in double-cropped acreage amid commodity price declines. This chart is found in the ERS report, Multi-Cropping Practices: Recent Trends in Double-Cropping, EIB-125, May 2014.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Estimates of U.S. crop returns per acre reveal large differences in crop profitability across commodities and over time during 2010-13. Returns to crop production are defined as the gross value of production less total economic costs. Total economic costs include operating costs such as seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides; the capital recovery cost for machinery and equipment; and the costs—known as opportunity costs—of employing land, labor, capital and other owned resources that have alternative uses. While returns to total economic costs for corn, soybeans, rice, and peanuts were positive, on average, for the 2010-13 period, average returns for other major crops were negative. For most crops, changes in farm prices and the gross value of production per acre, rather than changes in production costs, have driven returns to total economic costs. Lower prices contributed to reduced returns for corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, and peanuts in 2013, while price and yield increases improved returns for oats and rice. The negative returns over total economic costs for some crops indicate that that those producers realized a lower rate of return to their land, labor, and capital than the benchmark rates of return used in ERS commodity cost and returns accounts; returns over operating costs alone were positive for all crops throughout the period. This chart is based on data found in Commodity Costs and Returns.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Palm oil accounts for the largest share of global edible oil trade and is typically the lowest priced of the major edible oils, accounting for a large share of purchases by developing importing countries such as India and China. Since late 2013, however, edible oil prices have converged, triggering substitution of other major oils for palm oil by importers and creating opportunities for the United States and other major soybean oil exporters. In India, the world’s largest importer of edible oils, imports of competing oils have expanded as their price gap with palm oil has narrowed. Prices for palm oil delivered to Mumbai are currently $35-$75 per metric ton cheaper than soybean oil and sunflowerseed oil, down from $200-$300 a year ago. Reduced shipments by Indonesia and Malaysia, the 2 major palm oil exporters, are largely responsible for higher palm oil prices. Indonesia’s supplies are being siphoned off by higher blend requirements for domestic biodiesel consumption. In Malaysia, palm oil output has stagnated while domestic use has strengthened, leading to a decline in palm oil stocks. Find additional analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: April 2014.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Over the last 15 years, Ukraine has emerged as a major supplier to world markets for several agricultural commodities, including wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and rapeseed. Wheat is a traditional export, with annual shipments varying with crop size. For 2013/14 (July/June marketing year), Ukraine’s wheat exports are forecast at 10 million tons, or about 6 percent of world wheat trade. During the last decade, Ukraine’s corn production and exports have expanded, with 2013/14 (October/September) exports forecast at 18.5 million tons, making Ukraine the world’s third-largest corn exporter. Robust production growth is also behind Ukraine’s emergence as the world’s dominant supplier of sunflowerseed oil, with 2013/14 (September/August) exports forecast at nearly 4.1 million tons, or about 57 percent of global trade. Ukraine has also become a significant exporter of rapeseed, with 2013/14 (July/June) exports forecast at about 2.2 million tons, or 16 percent of world trade. Despite recent political developments in Ukraine, so far there is no evidence of significant shipping disruptions that might alter the 2013/14 Ukraine export forecasts. Find additional analysis Wheat Outlook: March 2014, Feed Outlook: March 2014, and Oil Crops Outlook: March 2014.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Although robust demand has recently supported soybean prices, the 2013/14 (October/September) soybean market outlook now hinges on the impending large crop forecast in Brazil, the world’s second-largest producer after the United States. The Brazilian forecast indicates a widening gap between soybean production and total use (crush plus exports), which may signal lower prices ahead. High prices are contributing to increased soybean area in Brazil, leading USDA to raise its 2013/14 soybean production forecast for Brazil to 89 million metric tons. The new forecast is up 1 million tons from the previous forecast, is well above last year’s record crop of 82 million, and is nearly equal to this year’s U.S. harvest of 89.5 million. Although abundant rainfall has created favorable growing conditions for Brazil’s 2013/14 soybean crop, the yield forecast is unchanged this month, with another 8-10 weeks of good weather needed if yields are to match or surpass the country’s 2010/11 yield record. While part of the increase in Brazilian supplies is expected to boost the country’s 2013/14 soybean crush and exports, the current outlook indicates a substantial increase in stocks. This chart can be found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with supporting analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: January 2014.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Futures markets play an important role in price discovery (determination of prices through the interaction of market supply and demand) for major agricultural commodities, and provide a tool for growers, traders, and processors to mitigate risk. For futures markets to perform these functions effectively, the price of a commodity held in a futures contract must match (or “converge”) with its price in the cash—or spot—market when the futures contract expires. During 2005-2011, cash and futures prices for soft red winter (SRW) wheat failed to converge to the generally acceptable “basis”—or difference between the cash price and futures price—of plus or minus $0.10/bushel. At times the basis exceeded $1.00/bushel. In response, the futures exchanges modified their SRW contracts to better align contract terms with changes occurring in cash markets for factors including storage rates, major delivery locations for SRW, and quality specifications. Following these changes, cash and futures market prices for SRW have moved closer together, improving the effectiveness of futures contracts in determining prices and as a tool to manage risk. This chart is based on Recent Convergence Performance of Futures and Cash Prices for Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat, FDS-13L-01, released December 30, 2013.
Monday, December 2, 2013
USDA has raised the 2013/14 (September/August marketing year) U.S. soybean export forecast to 39.5 million tons based on improved U.S. supplies and robust early season export sales commitments. As of October 31, 2013 U.S. export sales of soybeans already totaled 32.2 million tons—a record high for that date. Brisk sales to China are the main contributor to the strong pace, accounting for 71 percent of cumulative export inspections during September-October. Just over 2 months into the new marketing year, soybean sales commitments to China are already 98 percent of all sales during 2012/13. Importers are shifting their purchases toward U.S. soybeans as export shipments from Brazil and Argentina are in a seasonal decline, and U.S. Gulf soybean prices are comparatively cheaper than Brazil’s. Early season export sales of U.S. soybean meal are also unprecedentedly high because of declining shipments from South American and Indian processors, strengthening crush demand by domestic processors. This chart can be found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with accompanying analysis in Oil Crops Outlook: November 2013.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Brazil is forecast to surpass the United States as the world’s largest soybean producer for the first time in 2013/14 (September/August), the result of dry U.S. weather and prospects for continued price-driven expansion in Brazilian plantings. For 2013/14, U.S. soybean yields are now forecast at 41.2 bushels/acre, down from the previous forecast of 42.6 bushels but still above the 2012/13 drought-damaged yield of 39.6 bushels. Dry weather in the U.S. Midwest during August led USDA to cut soybean yield forecasts for 13 States, with the largest reductions in Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota. The dimmer outlook for U.S. production has increased global soybean prices, making soybeans even more price-competitive with other crop alternatives. In Brazil, prices faced by producers have also been reinforced by currency depreciation versus the U.S. dollar, with Brazil’s real falling 17 percent against the dollar since April 2013. Brazil’s farmers will soon begin planting the 2013/14 soybean crop, with funds on hand from last year’s bumper harvests and facing attractive prices. Brazil’s 2013/14 soybean area is forecast to rise 4 percent to 28.9 million hectares, with production growing to a record 88 million tons—up 6 million from the 2012/13 crop of 82 million tons. This chart can be found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery with analysis in the Oil Crops Outlook: September 2013.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Last month, U.S. cash prices for soybeans fell under the pressure of a new-crop outlook that is much improved over last year, combined with prospects for increased competition in export markets for soybeans and products because of abundant unused stocks in South America. The market’s transition also encouraged farmers to sell more of their last few stocks of old-crop soybeans, which added to the downward price momentum. In early July, cash prices at central Illinois country elevators were near $16 per bushel but were just over $13 by early August. But prices have now rebounded since USDA’s August 12 crop production report, which included a soybean yield forecast that was below market expectations. At $10.35-$12.35 per bushel, USDA’s forecast range for the 2013/14 average farm price is well below this year’s average of $14.40 per bushel. Cash prices for soybean meal and soybean oil are also lower. From its mid-July peak, central Illinois soybean meal prices dropped about $150 per short ton by early August to around $425 per short ton. Likewise, soybean oil prices in early July were close to 47 cents per pound but currently hover just over 41 cents per pound. This chart appears in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Although the USDA estimate of Brazil’s record 2012/13 soybean crop has been lowered to 82 million tons, strong expansion of Brazil’s soybean exports is forecast for 2012/13 and 2013/14. Brazil’s soybean exports are forecast to surpass those of the United States in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, making Brazil the world’s largest soybean exporter in both years. Despite lower yield expectations for the 2012/13 crop, export prospects have improved as extended weekday operations at major ports have trimmed a backlog of soybean exports. As a result of the enhanced capacity, soybean exports for the country set a monthly record in May at 7.95 million tons and more large monthly shipments are expected to follow. USDA forecasts Brazil’s 2012/13 soybean exports at a record 37.9 million tons and 2013/14 exports at another record of 41.5 million tons. This chart is adapted from one found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Farmers have choices for how they prepare the soil; reduce weed growth; incorporate fertilizer, manure and organic matter into the soil; and seed their crops, including the number of tillage operations and tillage depth. Tillage practices affect soil carbon, water pollution, and farmers’ energy and pesticide use. No-till is generally the least intensive form of tillage. Approximately 35 percent of U.S. cropland (88 million acres) planted to eight major crops had no-till operations in 2009, according to ERS researchers who estimated tillage trends based on 2000-07 data from USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). Furthermore, the use of no-till increased over time for corn, cotton, soybeans, rice and wheat, the crops for which the ARMS data were sufficient to calculate a trend. While a more recent estimate of nationwide use of no-till by all major crop producers is not available, based on the results of recent surveys of wheat producers in 2009 and corn producers in 2010, it seems likely that no-till’s use continues to spread, albeit at a much reduced pace among corn producers. This chart is found on the ERS topic page, Soil Tillage and Crop Rotation, and in the ERS report, Agriculture’s Supply and Demand for Energy and Energy Products, EIB-112, May 2013.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Rising incomes in China have led to a major shift in Chinese diets to include more livestock products. This dietary change, along with policy measures to spur growth in the industrialized feed industry and modern livestock production, has supported remarkable growth of soybean imports used to feed Chinese livestock while Chinese soybean production has been declining in favor of corn and rice production. The elimination of raw soybean import quotas and a surge in foreign investment in the Chinese soybean processing sector following China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 facilitated soybean imports from the United States and other world suppliers. The bulk of soybeans produced in China are for human consumption, while soybeans from the United States and South America, China’s two primary import sources, are crushed for feed and commercial oil uses. China has more than a 60-percent share of global soybean imports. This chart is found in the June Amber Waves article, “Crop Outlook Reflects Near-Term Prices and Longer Term Market Trends.”
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Farm-level commodity prices are far more volatile than food prices, as costs for marketing inputs such as packaging, processing, and transportation mitigate commodity price volatility on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Corn, wheat, and soybeans are the three most important field crops to the U.S. food supply. The average farm price of these crops, weighted by total production, regularly rises or falls by over 10 percent from year to year. On average, food prices have become less volatile in recent decades, as food price inflation averaged 8 percent per year in the 1970s, but only 2.8 percent per year since 1990. Commodity prices, alternatively, have grown somewhat more volatile over time. However, large changes in major commodity prices have relatively small impacts on food prices. In 2007-08, the average production-weighted price of these crops increased by 50 percent, while food prices rose 5.5 percent. Similarly, in 2010-11, the crop prices rose 31 percent and food prices increased 3.7 percent. This chart appears in the Food Price Outlook topic page on the ERS website, updated April 17, 2013.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Malaysian palm oil production for 2012/13 is forecast at a record 19 million tons and, despite record exports during October 2012-February 2013, stocks totaled 2.4 million tons in February—an all-time high for the month. With Indonesia's palm oil stocks reported to be even larger, the current oversupply has forced crude palm oil prices down by 23 percent from a year ago to a 4-year low. Malaysian palm oil exports in 2012/13 are forecast at 17.2 million tons, compared with 16.6 million last year, as palm oil exports from Malaysia and Indonesia counter stagnant global production of other vegetable oils. India—the world's largest market for vegetable oil—saw its 2012/13 palm oil imports forecast rise to 8 million tons, up from 7.5 million tons the previous year. This chart can be found in the Oil Crops Chart Gallery, with accompanying analysis in the Oil Crops Outlook: March 2013.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Overall food-at-home prices rose 2.6 percent in 2012, but this masked a great deal of variation across food categories. For the second consecutive year, beef and fats and oils showed the biggest percentage increases. Beef prices increased due to record low cattle inventories, while surging soybean prices pushed up prices for fats and oils. Poultry prices also increased substantially in 2012, due to a shift in demand away from high-priced beef and pork coupled with higher costs for broiler feed resulting from the Midwest drought. Pork prices, which saw major inflation in 2011, were flat in 2012 as wholesale prices fell due to rising hog inventories and falling exports. Vegetable prices fell 5.1 percent in 2012 as the unusually warm weather led to bumper crops for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, in sharp contrast to the poor harvests and high vegetable prices of 2011. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 24, 2013.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The expansion of palm oil supplies has been a key factor in meeting the rising global demand for vegetable oils, particularly by developing countries like China and India. World prices for other vegetable oils have declined in 2012 along with palm oil, but not as fast. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s dominant palm oil producers and exporters, with Indonesia emerging as the largest producer since about 2005, and as the largest exporter in 2011. Growth in Indonesian supplies has been fueled by the expansion of both oil palm growing area and yields. In Malaysia, production growth is constrained by an inability to further expand oil palm growing area and shortages of labor to harvest the crop. Surpluses of palm oil in both Indonesia and Malaysia have placed downward pressure on palm oil prices and generally making it the lowest cost vegetable oil on the world market. This chart appears in ERS’s November 2012 Oil Crops Outlook report.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Direct payments are based on historic acreage and yields of program crops like corn and wheat and are often considered "decoupled" because they do not depend on a farmer's current production decisions. Nonetheless, because direct payments are linked to past production of program crops and because productive areas tend to remain productive over time, areas that currently have higher average yields and more acreage of program crops tend to receive more payments than areas with lower yields and fewer acres. This positive association between direct payments and production of program crops raises doubts about whether direct payments really are decoupled from current production decisions. The 2002 Farm Act authorized direct payments for the first time for oilseed crops, such as soybeans, triggering a sudden shift in direct payments toward areas with higher average production of oilseeds. By studying oilseed producers' response to the shift in payments between 2002 and 2007, ERS researchers found that direct payments had little effect on production decisions This chart appears in "Expansion in Direct Payments Did Not Lead to More Crop Production" in the September 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Despite a large decline in the U.S. crop, global soybean production in 2012/13 is expected to increase to 260.5 million metric tons from 236 million in 2011/12 based on large gains in South America. By July, soybean prices in Brazil had surged nearly 50 percent compared to a year earlier. Brazilian producers are expected to respond to these incentives with a 10-percent increase in soybean area for 2012/13 to 27.5 million hectares. A larger cropland base is projected to raise Brazil's soybean production to 81 million tons—up 3 million from July's forecast. If realized, Brazil's 2012/13 soybean crop would be the first ever to surpass the U.S. harvest. A Brazilian soybean crop of this magnitude could push the country's 2012/13 exports to a world-leading 37.6 million tons. This chart is found in the August 2012 Oil Crops Outlook, OCS-12h.