U.S. farmers are going to be producing and exporting a lot more grain and oilseeds for their respective 2023-24 marketing years, according to forecasts released Thursday at USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Corn production this year is now expected to rise to 15.085 billion bushels, a 10% increase from last year and the second biggest crop ever, behind 2016-17, says USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Farmers, said USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer, are expected to plant 91 million acres of corn this year, further pushing acreage past soybeans. 

NASS said U.S. soybean production will rise this year on higher yields to 4.5 billion bushels, a 5% increase from 2022. Farmers will be planting 87.5 million acres with soybeans – the same acreage as last year – but the average yield is expected to reach 52 bushels per acre.

The major trend in the soybean sector, says Meyer, is expanding renewable diesel production. U.S. capacity to produce the fuel is rising, and demand for soyoil is both spurring the U.S. crush and keeping soybean exports lower than they would be.

“Soybean crush is projected to rise to a record 2.31 billion bushels,” NASS says. “Soybean oil prices have increased substantially since early 2021, driven by tight global vegetable oil supplies and numerous announcements to expand renewable diesel capacity in the United States.”

The new NASS forecasts also show stronger U.S. wheat production this year, but Meyer cautioned that long-term drought conditions in the Southern Plains could sharply impact expectations.

The forecasts released Thursday show total U.S. wheat production this year at 1.887 million bushels – a prediction based on area and yield.

And rice production – both long grain and short grain is expected to see a rebound in 2023, according to NASS predictions. Farmers are now forecast to produce 185 million hundredweight of rice this year, a 15% increase from 2022.

“Last year, a lot of things were working against rice, in terms of relative prices and high production costs,” said Meyer. Looking ahead, he said USDA expects rice prices will be "balancing a bit more with other crop prices as they come down.”

U.S. soy and corn exports seen rising after next harvests

USDA’s Economic Research Service on Thursday released its quarterly trade report, showing a sharp drop in expectations for the value of U.S. ag exports in the remainder of fiscal year 2023 (October-September), but the new NASS forecasts for 2023-24 crop years – much of which won’t come on the market until FY 2024 – show exports gaining strength.

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ERS cut its FY 2023 forecast for U.S. ag exports to $184.5 billion, a $5.5 billion reduction from its November prediction.

“The export forecasts for all major commodity groups are down, with the largest decreases projected for corn, sorghum, and soybeans,” ERS said in the quarterly report. “Corn exports are forecast $1.9 billion lower to $16.6 billion on lower volumes. Sorghum export projection is halved to $800 million on sharply lower U.S. production.

U.S. soybean exports this year will be taking a beating from Brazilian competition – the Brazilians are harvesting now – says ERS, which predicts U.S. shipments through September will be worth just $32 billion. That’s $800 million less than ERS was predicting in November.

But NASS, looking mostly beyond FY 2023 to the 2023-24 marketing year, sees rising U.S. soybean, corn, wheat and rice exports. 

The U.S. is now forecast to export 2.03 billion bushels of soybeans in the 2023-24 marketing year (September-August), 35 million bushels more than the current 2022-23 marketing year. 

And as for corn, the U.S. is now forecast to export 2.2 billion bushels for the 2023-24 marketing year, which also runs from September to August. That’s 275 million bushels more than the ongoing 2022-23 marketing year.

NASS said it raised its corn export forecast “with expectations of reduced exportable supplies in Ukraine, modest global trade growth and continued robust demand from China.”

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