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USDA sees slightly higher prices in 2019

Improving trade outlook could lure more acres to soybeans.

Updated 2019 acreage and price forecasts put out today by USDA at its outlook conference provided a few changes to the agency’s earlier estimates, but are mostly in line with sentiment in the trade.

Government economists kept their expectation for farmers to plant 92 million acres of corn, up from 89.1 million in 2018, despite an average cash price forecast of $3.65 for the crop. While that price would be a nickel higher than the agency’s Feb. 8 forecast for 2018, it was down from the first estimate put out in November for prices to average $3.90.

Today’s numbers, like the previous ones, are based on statistical models, not actual surveys of growers. USDA doesn’t put out its first survey-based estimate for corn and soybeans until March 29. But Farm Futures second survey of farmers released in January showed then ready to increase corn seedings to only 90.3 million acres, while the average guess from the trade was 91.7 million.

USDA today put soybean seedings at 85 million, up from the November estimate of 82.5 million but down from 89.2 million put for 2019. Farm Futures survey found acreage of 84.6 million, below the average guess from the trade of 86.1 million.

USDA’s average cash price forecast today for soybeans was $8.80 in 2019, up a nickel from its November projection. The agency Feb. 8 said the 2018 crop would reap an average of $8.60.

Wheat seedings also shifted a little from earlier estimates. USDA put all wheat acreage at 47 million, compared to 47.8 in 2018. Based on the agency’s winter what seedings put out Feb. 8, this implies steady total acreage for the spring-planted portion of the crop.

The Farm Futures survey put all wheat seedings at 46.3 million acres, with the average guess from the trade at 47.2 million.

USDA put the average cash price for 2019 crop wheat at $5.20, up a nickel from 2018 and unchanged from its November forecast.

Today’s estimates produced little changes in early futures trading, with markets holding earlier gains. The trade is mostly focused on trade talks with China, which produced more upbeat hopes as negotiations began today in Washington.

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