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USDA crop progress: Corn harvest even slower than expected

Trade analysts estimated 44% completion, but USDA doesn’t agree.

After multiple rounds of less-than-ideal harvest weather throughout much of late September and early October, most Midwest farmers saw clear skies and a chance to play catch-up last week. But the amount of actual progress made depends on who you ask.

Ahead of Monday’s latest USDA Crop Progress report, a group of 10 industry analysts estimates that the U.S. corn harvest is now 44% complete, up from 28% complete a week ago. Trade guesses ranged between 40% and 49%. USDA, however, came in not only below the average trade estimate, it also came in below the entire trade estimate range, estimating just 38% of the corn crop has been harvested. The five-year average for this time of year is 59%.

Some key corn production states have currently harvested less than one-fourth of their crops, including Colorado (18%), Iowa (23%), Minnesota (14%), North Dakota (17%), South Dakota (19%) and Wisconsin (15%). Several southern states have nearly concluded the 2017 harvest, with Tennessee (95%) and North Carolina (95%) leading the way.

Condition of the corn crop rated good to excellent also inched up another 1% to 66% of the crop. The percent of “good” corn stayed steady at 50%, while the percent of “excellent” corn improved 1% to 16%. The percent of excellent-rated corn is 20% or higher in seven states, including Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. This is the third consecutive week USDA has revised G/E ratings higher.

“The improvement in corn ratings raised our forecast of yields an average of .7 of 1% last week,” says Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “Yields range from 168 to 170.4 bushels per acre. Big gains in Iowa and Nebraska accounted for much of the improvement.”

USDA was much more bullish about the pace of soybean harvest compared to trade estimates, however. Trade analysts estimated soybean harvest is currently 64% complete, in a set of guesses that ranged from 60% to 67%. USDA’s latest estimate comes in ahead of both the average and the entire range, at 70%. The five-year average for this time of year is 73%.

Most states have at least made the halfway mark by now, according to USDA. States with more than half of the soybean harvest to complete include Kentucky (45%), Missouri (45%), North Carolina (34%) and Tennessee (49%).

Winter wheat planting pace is now 75% complete, slightly behind the five-year average of 80%. Farmers made solid progress from the week prior, when planting was only 60% complete. Most states have at least half of the winter wheat crop planted, with the current outliers being California (20%), Missouri (43%) and North Carolina (24%). Just more than half (52%) of the 2017/18 crop is now emerged.

The 2017 sorghum harvest is also moderately behind schedule, at 47% complete. At this time a year ago, sorghum harvest was 66% complete; the five-year average is 59%.

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