ST. LOUIS – U.S. corn growers may surpass last year’s record production despite lesser acreage devoted to the grain, but corn prices later in the year could edge lower, a federal report forecast Friday, well ahead of an unpredictable summer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report of the year envisions the nation’s farmers producing 13.9 billion bushels of corn this year, up slightly from last year’s record.
Higher yields were expected to offset the lesser acreage devoted to corn, according to the closely watched report, which estimated farmers would harvest 165.3 bushels of corn per acre, up 6.5 bushels from the previous year. Corn acreage is expected to be 91.7 million acres, down from 95.4 million acres.
But the season-average price for corn was forecast to be lower at a range of $3.85 to $4.55 per bushel, down from $4.50 to $4.80 a year earlier.
U.S. soybean production also is expected to be high, increasing by 346 million bushels to reach a record 3.64 billion bushels. A big part of the reason: The USDA expects farmers will plant 81.5 million acres of the crop, 5 million acres more than last year.
The report is the USDA’s best guess of agricultural expectations, based on assumptions that this summer’s weather will be normal across the Corn Belt. But weather in coming months still could dramatically influence actual crop production, as illustrated in 2012 when months of summer drought withered U.S. corn and soybean fields, pushing prices to record levels.
The USDA said cold spells last month caused further declines in the condition of winter wheat. The department now expects that crop’s production this year to be 1.4 billion bushels, down 9 percent from last year. Yields were forecast to fall by 4.3 bushels per acre, to 43.1.