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USDA crop progress: Corn harvest reaches only 22% complete

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Crop falls way behind the five-year average; soybeans slow as well.

With plentiful rains across the Plains and the Midwest this past week – and with more in the upcoming forecast – few thought the already slow harvest in progress had much chance of catching up. Tuesday’s latest USDA Crop Progress report further validated that, showing harvest lags well behind the five-year average.

The corn harvest is most notably slow so far, with just 22% of harvest complete. That’s up from 17% a week ago, but well behind the progress made compared to 2016 (33%) or the five-year average (37%).

Among the top 18 states that harvest nearly all U.S. corn, harvest is only at least 50% complete in five states – Kentucky (66%), Missouri (53%), North Carolina (89%), Tennessee (85%) and Texas (76%). Other states have only made single digit progress, including Colorado (8%), Iowa (8%), Minnesota (4%), North Dakota (4%), South Dakota (6%) and Wisconsin (5%).

Meantime, the percent of the crop rated good to excellent inched up by one percentage point, from 63% to 64%. A total of 15% of the crop is now rated excellent, led by high-quality output from Tennessee (43%), Pennsylvania (36%), North Carolina (31%), Texas (22%) and Wisconsin (22%).

Ahead of the results, a group of 13 industry analysts predicted the percent of corn rated good-to-excellent would remain unchanged, at 63%. The analysts also predicted that corn harvest would come in at 27% complete. Farm Futures, which participates in these surveys, estimated a 63% good-to-excellent rating and harvest pace of 25%.

“Big gains in the I states helped boost corn yield potential in the latest week, adding 1.1 bushels per acre according to the average of our models based on crop ratings put out by USDA,” says Farm Futures senior grain market analyst Bryce Knorr. “Those yields ranged from 166.2 bpa to 169.1 bpa.”

The pace of the 2017 U.S. soybean harvest is also slower than normal, although it hasn’t fallen behind as dramatically as corn. USDA says harvest is now 36% complete, up from last week’s total of 22% but still behind the pace of 2016 (41%) and the five-year average (43%). Of the 18 states that grow the bulk of the U.S. crop, several have crossed the halfway mark, including Arkansas (62%), Illinois (52%), Louisiana (91%), Michigan (51%) and Mississippi (73%).

The percentage of soybeans in good-to-excellent condition also improved by 1%, from 60% to 61%. The Delta region is leading the way with the largest percentages of soybeans in excellent conditions, including Tennessee (42%), Mississippi (27%) and Arkansas (18%). Wisconsin soybeans have also fared very well in 2017, with 24% of the crop rated excellent and 48% of the crop rated good.

Industry analysts ahead of the report had predicted the U.S. soybean crop’s good-to-excellent rating would remain unchanged, at 60%. The analysts also estimated this year’s soybean harvest is now 38% complete. Farm Futures estimated a soybean good-to-excellent rating of 61% and a harvest that’s 34% complete.

“Soybean yield potential was up 0.14% to an average of 48 bpa, in a range from 47.4 bpa to 48.5 bpa,” Knorr says. “Though yield projections for both corn and soybeans are still below USDA’s last WASDE forecast on Sept. 12, the consistent increases suggest the government is likely to raise its production estimates in Thursday’s update.”

Winter wheat planting made some headway with 48% now complete, but it remains behind the pace of 2016 (57%) and the five-year average (58%).

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