Uncertainty Still Looms Over Crop Yields With New USDA Forecast

Aug 13, 2019

Experts weigh in on the USDA's crop yield forecast during a panel session at the Indiana State Fair.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released updated numbers Monday showing farmers planted more acres this spring than many private analysts expected. That’s one of several factors driving market prices lower for many farmers’ crops.

Heavy rains delayed planting for many farmers in Indiana. Now, corn production is forecast to be down 17 percent from last year. Soybean production is also expected to be down 22 percent.

But Purdue University agricultural economics professor Chris Hurt says the rain and heat this planting and growing season didn’t cause a lasting spike in crop prices.

“That’s pretty remarkable that we went through all these weather problems, and it’s not to say we won’t see a reaction to the price, but right now we’re not,” says Hurt.

He says there are several reasons for that, including the trade war between the U.S. and China. The dispute cut off a key export market for American farmers, creating an oversupply. 

Hurt joined a panel of several other experts at the Indiana State Fair Monday afternoon responding to the latest numbers, including USDA State Statistician Greg Matli. He says it’s been difficult to get accurate numbers on plants like corn with a season unlike any other recorded due to the various stages of growth happening everywhere.

“You have some areas corn’s in dough stages, you have some corn that’s not even tasseled yet, and even in the same field you have those same stages,” says Matli.

Matli and other panelists say a lot is still in the air when it comes to what the final yields will look like. The next 60 days will be critical for a successful harvest.