Letter Re: Late Corn Planting in the American Midwest Does Not Bode Well

Mr. Rawles,
Greetings from the occupied territory of Coloradostan. 

I am a long time reader and first time responder to the blog. I am an agricultural economist and read Woody’s perspective with interest, as I am sure many did. I just examined USDA’s crop progress report from this afternoon. Much progress was made in the 18 primary corn producing states. We are now 71 percent planted versus the previous five year average(which is skewed by last years data) of 79 percent. Woody’s home state of Ohio, about which he’s was particularly alarmed is now 74 percent planted vs. 58 percent for the five year average. To be clear his quote of 12 percent planted on 12 May 2013 is in error as the latest report shows 28 percent planted last Sunday and 71 percent last evening. We are now further along in corn planting than we were in both 2009 and 2011. 

His disdain for USDA is a little troubling as they do a far better job than the ag department of any other. Are they perfect? Certainly not, but as one of my mentor always said, “but they are official!”.  Common wisdom may hold for common corn varieties but that isn’t what is being planted in the US. Mote than half of this year’s planted acreage will be stacked gene varieties and nearly 90 percent will be some form of biotech variety. Stacked gene varieties accounted for only 1 percent in 2001. Even if we lost the 8 percent we are behind vs the five year average it would still be the fifth largest corn planted acreage in US history. 

Corn price haven’t responded or rallied because the acreage number is record large and even with conservative yield estimates corn ending stocks for the 2013/14 crop are expected to more than double to the largest corn surplus since the late 1980s. The renewable fuel standard will keep corn prices from approaching prices seen for the 1987/88 crop but they are still expected to drop by 25 to 35 percent. Just wanted folks to know before they loaded the boat so to speak. I’d buy some if I didn’t have any but wouldn’t lay in my entire needs of a lifetime. 

Most respectfully, – D.W. in Colorado

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