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Published March 31, 2014, 09:33 AM

Price volatility predicted in corn, soybeans

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Expect volatility in the soybean and corn markets over the next five years, says Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

By: University of Missouri Extension Service ,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Expect volatility in the soybean and corn markets over the next five years, says Pat Westhoff, director of the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute.

Look for corn prices to drop to $4 per bushel, and soybean to $10 per bushel, on average for the next five years, he says. Net farm income is expected to drop 24 percent in the next year.

Westhoff’s comments are part of MU FAPRI’s recent baseline briefing booklet, giving five-year projections for agriculture and biofuel markets. Westhoff says FAPRI’s price projections for the grain markets are “more pessimistic than a year ago,” but more optimistic than U.S. Department of Agriculture projections.

Concerns loom about a changing global economy from unrest in the Ukraine and other parts of the world, he says. Changes in the new farm bill, also create “lots and lots of uncertainty.”

But one thing Westhoff is certain about is that farm income will go down. Overall net farm income goes down from $130.5 billion in 2013 — the highest since the 1970s. Net farm income reached record levels in 2013 in nominal terms and hit the highest level since the 1970s in inflation-corrected real terms, he says.

U.S. grain production increased by 50 percent from 1993 to 2013, Westhoff says. World production of grains and oilseeds increased sharply in 2013, rebounding from the 2012 U.S. drought. Stocks continued to build as global production exceeded consumption, he says.

Corn prices peaked at $6.89 per bushel for the drought-reduced crop harvested in 2012. Prices predicted for 2014 to ’18 are $4.08 per bushel. Corn drops considerably from last year’s level, and then remains relatively constant through 2018.

“Believe it or not, 2012, a drought year, was the best net return year for corn growers. Not for Missouri, where yields were especially low, but for the nation,” Westhoff says. For the average U.S. producer, high prices and crop insurance indemnities offset the lower yields.

Westhoff projects there will be less corn produced this year as farmers shift corn acres to soybeans. Corn acres this year drop by 4.1 million, with an expected 91.3 million acres planted in 2014.

More yield per acre and more beginning stock continue to push prices down in 2014.

Soybean prices also take a hit. Peaking at $14.40 per bushel in 2012 to ’13, soybean drops to an average of $9.76 for 2014 to ’18. Bean acreage is expected to increase by 2.2 million acres to 78.7 million acres.

Lower prices and returns could slightly reduce the total amount of land planted to corn, soybeans and other crops in 2014. But, adverse weather kept farmers from planting some acres in 2013, so if conditions are more favorable this spring, that could push acreage higher.

The good news is that input costs might increase only moderately.

The effect of the new farm bill remains unknown, Westhoff says. Crop insurance payments become an important part of the program. Since the value of crops drops, the budgetary cost might be less. Taxpayers subsidize about 62 percent of the cost of crop insurance premiums.

Unlike the old direct-payment program that made constant annual payments, new farm bill commodity programs might make no payments in some years and very large payments in other years.

Net farm income in 2014 is projected to decline by more than 24 percent ($30 billion) from 2013, as sharply lower crop prices and reduced government payments offset the impact of strong cattle and milk prices and a slight reduction in production costs.

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