News Column

Soybean acres soar in Iowa, record national crop

August 11, 2014

By Jim Offner, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa



Aug. 11--CEDAR FALLS -- More than 10 million acres of soybeans went into the ground across Iowa in 2014 -- about a half-million more than forecasters had projected in March, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That's part of an anticipated record soybean crop of 84.8 million acres across the U.S. That's up 11 percent from a year ago, USDA said, noting that a fully harvested crop would surpass the previous record by more than 7.4 million acres.

Corn remains the dominant crop in Iowa, with about 14 million acres. But agriculture officials note that the lure of soybeans, and their comparatively stable market prices, has been strong this year.

"This year we had a few more go to beans than stayed in corn, basically due to the market," said Bill Northey, Iowa's Agriculture Secretary.

Strong storms that pelted the state in June likely will cut into projected volumes, officials said. Grant Kimberly, market development director with the Ankeny-based Iowa Soybean Association, noted that rain and hail, as well as wind damage, in areas of Iowa and the Upper Midwest weren't accounted for in initial projections.

Some reports estimate acreage losses statewide at 1 percent, the association said.

Cedar Falls grower Jim Fitkin said the Cedar River had claimed some soybeans and corn, and standing water was common after about 10 inches of rain in mid-July.

"But to the other extreme, I have a few bare spots in fields from the ground being too dry at planting," he said. "A challenging year so far."

Yields appear to be up this year, Fitkin said.

"The trend line has been good for increasing yields, and demand has been increasing," he said.

Fitkin said the livestock market appears to be showing a bigger appetite for beans, as well as corn.

"People have higher income so they want more meat, so more corn and beans," he said. "That's good news for us."

Northey, who grows soybeans and corn in the Spirit Lake area, said weather likely would take a toll on the final bean count.

"Beans don't really like too wet weather, and our June wasn't the greatest for them," he said.

What happens in August, however, will go farther in determining the final numbers, Northey said.

"There' s nothing magical about it," he said. "As it's filling those beans, weather during that time and having enough moisture during that time is critical. It's important to have a good-sized crops. You can have big beans in August, but with the wrong weather, you can have half a crop."

So far, so good, he said.

"We're in good shape going in; we're going to need some moisture in some areas that missed moisture," Northey said. "Our beans are clean. We're not fighting a lot of weeds."

Growers likely will be staring at a lower market this year than last, Northey said.

Prices have been in the $10-11 range, compared to $13-14 last year.

Corn farmers have it worse, however, Northey said, noting that the corn market had been less than $4 per bushel.

"We're probably not at our low if a big crop comes," Northey said. "If there's some kind of weather problem, it could stabilize and tighten up."

The export market could determine where the market ultimately goes, particularly where the Chinese market is concerned, Northey said.

"They've been cutting back on corn imports but, generally, they've been increasing bean imports pretty much every year," he said. "For the most part, they've been decreasing bean acres as they increase corn, wheat and rice, so they have continued to buy more, and that has really helped the price for soybeans."

China buys 60 percent of soybeans traded on the international market -- six times more than any other country, Northey noted.

"If they were to reduce their needs in the future, that would have a big impact on soybean acreage," he said. "But historically, they have increased soybean demand."

Dunkerton-area grower Dustin Sage of Sage Family Farms said falling corn prices and disappointing yields likely fueled a shift to soybeans this year.

"It was kind of one of those perfect-storm kind of things," Sage said. "A lot of people had planted corn over recent years, so it was kind of shift to back to what we'd normally see.

Sage noted that the markets have been "hammered" but hesitated to make any predictions.

"I think there's room to come back, but how much I don't know," he said.

Any outlook, so far as it goes, would be "highly variable," Sage said.

"I've got beans that are 5 inches tall and 4 inches tall and they're all blooming," he said. "We went from wet, to dry to wet and now we're back to wet an the beans need a drink, bad."

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(c)2014 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)

Visit Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) at www.wcfcourier.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA)


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