USDA reports mixed results for corn and soybean yields

Kent Thiesse
The Crop Production report issued by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) forecasted soybean and corn production up from 2020.

The Aug. 12 USDA crop report projected an increased 2021 average U.S. corn yield compared to last year and a similar national average soybean yield to 2020; however, it should be noted that both yield levels were reduced from the July USDA estimates.

The August yield and production projections were based on a National Agricultural Statistics Service survey of 18,600 crop producers in early August and on crop conditions as of Aug. 1. The August USDA corn and soybean yield projections were actually lower than average estimates by grain marketing analysts, so the initial grain market reaction tended to be bullish, with increases in both corn and soybean prices following the release of the Aug. 12 report.

The Aug. 12 USDA crop report estimated 2021 total U.S. corn production at 14.75 billion bushels, which would be an increase of 4% from the 2020 production level of just under 14.2 billion bushels. The 2021 projected U.S. corn production also compares to 3.6 billion bushels in 2019, 14.4 billion bushels in both 2018 and 2017 and the current record U.S. corn production of 15.2 billion bushels in 2016. USDA is estimating 2021 total U.S. corn acreage harvested for grain at 84.5 million acres, which compares to 82.5 million acres in 2020.  

The latest crop report projects the national average corn yield in 2021 at 174.8 bushels per acre, which is a decline of 4.9 bushels per acre from the NASS yield estimate in July. This compares to U.S. corn yields of 172 bushels per acre in 2020, 167.4 bushels per acre in 2019, 176.4 bushels per acre in 2018 and the current record U.S. average corn yield of 176.6 bushels in 2017.

Corn yields

Many private grain marketing analysts projected slightly higher national corn yield levels than the USDA report. There is a large spread in 2021 corn yield estimates between the eastern and western Corn Belt states.

USDA is estimating a record 2021 corn yield in eight states, including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The 2021 corn yield estimate is as follows for major corn producing states:

  • Illinois: 214 bushels per acre (2021); 192 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Indiana: 194 bushels per acre (2021);187 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Ohio: 193 bushels per acre (2021); 171 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Nebraska: 186 bushels per acre (2021); 181 bushels per acre (2020)
  • South Dakota: 133 bushels per acre (2021); 162 bushels per acre (2020)
  • North Dakota: 106 bushels per acre (2021); 139 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Wisconsin: 167 bushels per acre (2021); 174 bushels per acre (2020)

USDA is projecting Iowa’s 2021 average corn yield at 193 bushel per acre, which is well above the final 2020 corn yield of 178 bushels per acre that was greatly reduced by a derecho windstorm that swept across Iowa in mid-August of 2020.  Other recent Iowa average corn yields include 198 bushels per acre in 2019, 196 bushels per acre in 2018, 202 bushels per acre yield in 2017 and the current record statewide corn yield of 203 bushels per acre in 2016.

The Aug. 12 USDA report estimated total 2021 U.S. soybean production at nearly 4.34 billion bushels, which would be up slightly from the 2020 production level of slightly over 4.13 billion bushels. Other recent U.S. soybean production levels include 3.55 billion bushels in 2019, the record production level of 4.54 billion bushels in 2018, 4.39 billion bushels in 2017 and 4.3 billion bushels in 2016. USDA is now estimating total 2021 harvested soybean acreage at 86.7 million acres, which compares to 82.3 million acres in 2020.

WI soybean yield near U.S. average

USDA is projecting the 2021 U.S. average soybean yield at 50 bushels per acre, which is just below the 2020 national average yield of 50.2 bushels per acre. The 2021 estimated soybean yield compares to other recent national average soybean yields of 47.4 bushels per acre in 2019, 51.6 bushels per acre in 2018, 49.1 bushels per acre in 2017 and the record U.S. average soybean yield of 52.1 bushels per acre in 2016.

The USDA report lists nine states that are likely to have a record statewide soybean yield in 2021, again including the important production states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The estimated 2021 soybean yield for the top soybean production states include:

  • Illinois: 64 bushels per acre (2021); 59 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Indiana: 60 bushels per acre (2021); 58 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Ohio: 58 bushels per acre (2021); 54 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Nebraska: 60 bushels per acre (2021); 57 bushels per acre (2020)
  • South Dakota: 39 bushels per acre (2021); 45.5 bushels per acre (2020)
  • North Dakota: 24 bushels per acre (2021); 33.5 bushels per acre (2020)
  • Wisconsin: 49 bushels per acre (2021); 51 bushels per acre (2020)

North Dakota is estimated to have the fourth highest 2021 soybean acreage in the U.S., trailing only Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

Minnesota’s 2021 average soybean yield is estimated at 43 bushels per acre, which compares to 49 bushels per acre in 2020. Other recent statewide soybean yields include 44 bushels per acre in 2019, 48 bushels per acre in 2018, 47 bushels per acre in 2017 and the record state soybean yield of 52.5 bushels per acre in 2016.

Iowa is projected to have a 2021 soybean yield of 58 bushels per acre, compared to 53 bushels per acre in 2020, 55 bushels per acre in 2019, 57 bushels per acre in 2018, 56.5 bushels per acre in 2017 and the state record of 60.5 bushels per acre in 2016.

Aug. 12 WASDE report

The updated USDA World Supply and Demand Estimates report was also released on Aug.12.

The report included the 2021 estimated U.S. corn production of 14.75 billion bushels and harvested corn acreage of 84.5 million acres, along with the latest USDA corn yield projection of 174.6 bushels per acre.

The corn ending stocks for 2020-21 are now estimated at just over 1.11 billion bushels, which was increased by 35 million bushels from the July estimate. The 2021-2022 corn ending stocks are now projected at 1.24 billion bushels, which was a decline of 190 million bushels from the July report. The projected corn carryout levels compare to 2019-2020 corn ending stocks of 2.23 billion bushels. The projected corn “stocks-to-use” ratio for 2020-2021 in the latest WASDE report is only 7.4%, which is at the lowest level since 2012-2013.

USDA is projecting an average on-farm corn price for the 2021-2022 marketing year, which extends from Sept. 1 through August 31, 2022, at $5.75 per bushel, which is an increase of $0.15 per bushel from the July estimate.

The 2020-2021 national average corn price, which will be finalized on Sept. 30, is now estimated at $4.40 per bushel. These estimates compare to national average prices of $3.56 per bushel in 2019-2020, $3.61 per bushel for both 2018-2019 and 2015-2016 and $3.36 per bushel in both 2017-2018 and 2016-2017. 

The recent WASDE report used the 2021 U.S. soybean production level of 4.34 billion bushels and included decreases in 2020-2021 soybean crush and export levels from previous estimates.

The resulting estimated 2020-2021 soybean ending stocks are now estimated at 160 million bushels, which is up from 135 million bushels in the July WASDE report. The 2021-2022 soybean ending stocks are projected at 155 million bushels, which is very similar to the current year estimate. USDA is now projecting an average on-farm soybean price for the 2020-2021 marketing year at $10.90 per bushel and at $13.70 per bushel for the 2021-2022 marketing year. This compares to national average prices of $8.57 per bushel in 2019-2020, $8.47 per bushel in 2018-2019 and $9.33 in 2017-2018. 

Kent Thiesse

Kent Thiesse is the Farm Management Analyst and Vice President of MinnStar Bank