CME: Cheap Feed Will Aid in Growth of Pork, Chicken Industries

US - Steve Meyer and Len Steiner write, "Grain markets reacted to USDA’s first report on unplanted acres and warnings about the potential for early frost. CME Group new-crop corn futures gained 15 to 17 cents per bushel. November new crop soybean futures gained 26-1/2 cents while January and March contracts rose by 25 and 20-1/4 cents per bushel, respectively."
calendar icon 20 August 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

First, regarding USDA’s prevented plantings data. The data are published by the Farm Service Agency which administered the department’s direct and counter-cyclical payment programs. They have, since 2011, been released monthly beginning in August and ending in January of the following year. A link has been added to the Daily Livestock Report website ( to take you to the webpage. (We’re not trying to be coy here — it is just a long URL and easier to find using the link!)

The table below shows August data for the three years that it is available relative to planted and harvested acres from the August WASDE of each year. Note that the FAS data have indicated lower total corn acreage totals in each of the last two years but this year’s figure (91.93 million) is, at 94.4 per cent of the WASDE planted acres figure, significantly lower than in either 2011 or 2013. In addition, the number of acres on which planting was prevented, at 3.411 million, is the highest of the three years and is larger than the trade expected yesterday. Conversely, USDA’s August forecast for harvested acres is 100.7 per cent of FAS’s planted corn acres relative to 94 per cent and 95.6 per cent the previous two years. These are not the final figures on FAS acreages but it is clear to see that these data confirm concerns that actual planted and harvest corn acres will fall significantly short of the August WASDE figures.

The state by state data shown below are, in our opinion, cause for even more concern. Prevented-planting acres amount to 3.7 per cent of the total FSA acres but account for larger percentages in six states that planted over 1 million acres of corn. FSA lists 1.23 million acres as unplanted in Iowa and Minnesota alone. Note that the 16 states that this year planted 1 million or moreacres of corn account for 90 per cent of all corn acres and saw planting prevented on 3.6 per cent of their intended acres.

The prevented planting situation is not quite as serious for soybeans with 2.2 per cent of total acres listed by FSA’s August data as prevented. Most notable among the list of top soybean states is Minnesota’s 203,760 (3.1 per cent) and North Dakota’s 418,046 (8.9 per cent). North Dakota has become a more and more important state for both corn and soybeans in recent years as shorter-maturing varieties have been developed and improved. The FSA data indicate that over 900,000 acres of corn and soybeans and 1.445 million acres of wheat (21.5 per cent of the intended acres) did not get planted in North Dakota this year.

And then there are the frost warnings. We have pointed out several times just how vulnerable this late-planted crop is to early frost. That is, of course, especially true of soybeans since they are, per normal, planted later than corn. But in just the past week we have seen two separate and, as far as we know, independent weather forecasters give some serious warnings of frost in early to mid-September. One came from Dr Simon Atkins of Advanced Forecasting Corporation ( and the other from Dr Drew Lerner of World Weather, Inc. ( They parallel each other pretty well and, when combined with continued dryness in much of Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota, one has to be concerned about feed ingredient prices not falling by as much as we once envisioned.

What will this mean for meat and poultry supplies? The chicken and pork industries have been positioning themselves to “grow if the feed is cheaper” for some time. The availability of breeding birds has been a limiting factor for US broiler companies but that constraint is expected to become less binding as the avian influenza recover in Mexico is completed. US hog producers have reduced sow shipments relative to last year and the previous 5 years in the past few weeks. The last two observations in the chart below are based on MPR purchase data but we think the trend is clear that sows are being held in the expectation that 2014 will be quite profitable.

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