March 31 USDA report shows 2016 corn stocks similar to last year

By Ann Bailey | April 01, 2016

The amount of corn on hand in the United States totaled 7.81 billion bushels on March 31, the USDA said in its annual stocks report. That amount was 7 million bushels more than the trade expected.

The difference between USDA’s estimate and what the trade had anticipated is small and “pales in comparison“  to some other years when there was a much greater difference in the numbers, said Scott Irwin, University of Illinois agricultural economist during an April FarmDoc “Crop Price Implications of USDA’s Grain Stocks and Prospective Plantings Report” webinar. Irwin hosted the webinar with Darrel Good, University of Illinois agricultural economist.

The March 31 report pegged corn stored on farms was 4.34 billion bushels, down 1 percent from a year ago. Corn in off-farm storage totaled 3.47 billion bushels, 3 percent more than was stored off-farm last year, the report said.

USDA estimated food, seed and industrial corn usage, meanwhile, at 6.7 million bushels, up slightly from 6.62 million bushel a year ago. Corn used for ethanol, pegged at 5.325 million bushels also was up from the 5.25 million bushels used last year.

Looking ahead to spring planting, USDA estimated that farmers will seed 93.6 million acres of corn this year, 6 percent more than the 88 million acres they seeded last year. If the estimate is accurate, that will be the most corn acres planted since 2013 and the third highest number of acres U.S. farmers planted since 1944, USDA said. The March 31 USDA corn acreage estimate exceeded by 1.5 million acres, traders’ estimate of 92.1 million planted acres.

However, the actual number of acres that farmers plant could change between now and when the corn gets in the ground, depending on weather conditions and prices, Good noted.

“What we do know from history is that actual planted acreage likely will be different than what we see in the March report,” he said. Farmers in states such as North Dakota, which is expected to see a big increase in corn acreage, may decide to plant wheat, instead, if corn prices drop, Good said.  Farmers in some states also may decide to switch some acreage from corn to soybeans if soybean prices are stronger, he said.

USDA estimated harvested corn acreage this fall will be 86 million acres, 1.5 million acres more than corn traders estimated harvested corn acreage of 84.5 million. In 2015, farmers harvested 80.7 million corn acres, USDA said.