2012 crop report: a mixed bag
The year 2012 will be remembered by the agriculture sector for the worst drought in 50 years. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 71 percent of the country as disaster areas, due to drought. Overall, it was a mixed bag, depending on the geographic area being reported. While gloomy reports came for crops such as corn and soybeans, other products, such as peanuts, experienced bumper crops.
Every month the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated the crop reports, and the severity of the drought was apparent across the nation. Economists questioned the lingering effects the drought will have on grain prices, and early January brought more of the same.
Producers got an overview of 2012 when the USDA released the “Crop Production 2012 Annual Summary” Jan. 11. While slight changes were noted from a month earlier, the bottom line said it all: “Weather continues to dictate the crop prices in 2013.”
The year started with favorable conditions, as the USDA reported that “farmers planted at the fastest pace in U.S. history and planted the largest acreage in the past 75 years.” By July, Mother Nature had taken her toll, turning what would have been bumper crops into losses.
U.S. corn producers planted an additional 5.2 million acres over the previous year, totaling 97.155 million acres in 2012. Of this, only 87.375 million acres were actually harvested.
The U.S. corn crop yielded only 123.4 bushels per acre in 2012 or 23.8 bushels per acre less than 2011, when farmers harvested an average of 147.2 bushels per acre. Total production was 10.78 billion bushels, down more than 1.6 billion bushels from 2011.
According to the USDA report, while the Corn Belt’s yield dropped drastically, record yields were estimated in the southeastern states, as well as Idaho and Wyoming.
Darin Newsom, DTN/The Progressive Farmer senior analyst, gave his overview in a crop webinar Jan. 11.
“One thing needs to be clear,” Newsom said. “While these numbers are called ‘final’ estimates for 2012-13, in reality they are not. Revisions will continue to be made ... for a number of years.”
Todd Davis, American Farm Bureau Federation senior economist, also questioned this report in a Jan. 11 Farm Bureau press release.
“Ten percent of the planted corn acres were not harvested for grain, which is a relatively low level of abandonment given the extreme damage caused by the drought,” he stated.
Both economists said that corn exports are the lowest since the early 1970s.
Newsom said soybean production increased in January from the previous month, to a total of 3.01 billion bushels.
According to the USDA, the 2012 production is the seventh-largest on record, while the harvested acreage of 76.1 million acres is ranked third on record.
The USDA report shows other losses as well, including hay.
While hay shortages were reported throughout 2012, the USDA report revealed the lowest production level since 1964, with all dry hay estimated at only 52 million tons.
Alfalfa’s production level was comparable to 1953, with only 52 million tons harvested. The 17.3 million acres is the “smallest harvested area since 1948,” according to the USDA report.
Sorghum farmers planted 6.24 million acres, or a 14-percent increase from 2011. While the average grain yield of 49.8 bushels per acre is down 4.8 bushels from last year, the total harvest is estimated at 247 million bushels.
While record yields were reported in Georgia and Louisiana, other states saw the opposite. Colorado farmers had the lowest grain production since 1934, Kansas since 1956, and New Mexico its lowest since 1945.
The peanut crop was one of the exceptions to the downward trends among the 2012 crops.
In November 2011, peanuts were making headlines, with a severe drought in the southeastern United States, where a large amount of peanuts are grown. Texas -- the second-highest-producing state -- was experiencing the worst drought in its history.
However, despite the Texas drought, the country’s production is estimated at a record high of 6.74 billion pounds, an 84-percent increase from 2011. A record-high yield of 4,192 pounds per acre was reported.
According to the USDA report, “Record high yields were reported in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia.”
Texas was not as fortunate. The “first fall frost ended phonological development in many northern Texas cotton and peanut fields, allowing for an earlier than normal harvest.”
Newsom and Davis also referenced other countries when addressing the United States and world supply and demand.
“Feed demand is down 98 million bushels from 2011-12 and is projected at 4.45 billion; exports are 950 and are the lowest since 1971-72,” Davis said. “Ethanol demand is projected at 4.5 billion and is 511 million less than 2011-12, reflecting the ethanol market’s adjustment to higher corn prices.”
“The series of reports released on Friday [Jan. 11] provides the last supply information for the 2012 crop,” Davis said. “Now, the market will place greater focus on the Southern Hemisphere’s corn, soybean, and wheat crops.”