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Weekly outlook

USDA reports

[MARCH 17, 2003]  URBANA -- The large range of expectations about the stocks and acreage numbers to be released in USDA reports on March 31 opens the door for some surprises, according to a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"Add in the wide range of expectations about 2003 growing conditions, the generally low level of inventories and an uncertain export picture, and a case for volatile prices can be made," said Darrel Good. "The uncertainty during the spring and summer months typically offers some attractive pricing alternatives for producers. Hopefully, that will be the case again this year."

Good's comments came as he reviewed the upcoming USDA reports. On March 31, USDA will release the results of the spring planting intentions survey and the March 1 report on grain stocks. These reports will provide additional supply-side information for the corn and soybean markets for the next several weeks.

"The reports will set the tone for these markets, much like the January reports set the tone for the winter markets," said Good. "The January reports featured a surprising increase in the estimated size of the 2002 soybean crop and revealed a much slower rate of feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the 2002-03 marketing year.

"Anticipating the estimate of March 1 stocks of corn and soybeans is more difficult than normal this year."


For soybeans, Good explained, the major source of confusion is the large discrepancy between the USDA and Census Bureau export estimates and the resulting large estimate of "residual" use projected by USDA. Through January, there was a 60-million-bushel difference in the USDA and census estimates of exports.

In addition, until the February Census Bureau crush report is released next week, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of domestic soybean processing during the second quarter of the marketing year. The crush was down by only 2.2 percent during the first four months of the marketing year but was off by 8 percent in January. Where, Good asked, will the February estimate come in?

"Using the Census Bureau estimate of exports, a larger than normal estimate of 'residual' use of soybeans during the first half of this year, and assuming an 8 percent reduction in the domestic crush in February, March 1 soybean stocks should have been near 1.2 billion bushels," said Good. "Using the USDA estimate of exports during the first half of the year and a normal 'residual' use during the first half of the year, March 1 soybean stocks should have been near 1.175 billion bushels. Both figures are well below the 1.336 billion bushel inventory of a year ago, but 25 million bushels one way or another has important price implications."


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For corn, there are two sources of uncertainty surrounding the projection of March 1 stocks. The first is the difference in the export estimates among the various sources. Through January, the Census Bureau estimate of cumulative corn exports totaled 668 million bushels. The USDA export inspection report showed shipments of 636 million bushels and the USDA report on export sales showed shipments of 672 million bushels.

"Since the USDA uses the Census Bureau estimate as the official estimate, the USDA has to account for the difference in making the projection of feed and residual use of corn," said Good. "In addition, expectations about feed and residual use of corn during the second quarter of the marketing year are clouded by the large amount of feed byproducts produced by the ethanol industry. The byproduct substitutes for both grain and protein feed in the livestock ration.

"Our calculations would suggest a March 1, 2003, inventory of corn near 5.2 billion bushels, compared to 5.8 billion on the same date last year."

The early projections from the private sector indicate expectations of about 80.6 million acres of corn planted in 2003. That represents an increase of about 1.55 million acres from planted acreage in 2002. Under normal conditions, planted acreage of that magnitude would result in acreage harvested for grain near 73.6 million acres, about 4.3 million more than the weather-reduced acreage of 2002.

"There is a wide range in private sector expectations about intentions for soybean acreage in 2003," said Good. "Projections are in a range of 69.8 to 72.9 million, compared to 73.758 million planted in 2002. The difference appears to reflect expectations about spring wheat acreage and about total planted acreage of major crops.

"At least one popular private source expects combined acreage of corn, soybeans and wheat to increase by 2.25 million acres in 2003, even with a 1.1-million-acre decline in spring wheat seedings."

[U of I news release]

Farmers could see a break in
seasonal use vehicle registration

[MARCH 17, 2003]  Farmers could save hundreds of dollars each year under legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Brady, 44th District, that allows special vehicle registration plates for farm trucks and trailers strictly for the months those vehicles are used for planting and harvest.

Approved by the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee March 11, Senate Bill 1471 allows the owners of farm trucks and trailers to purchase registration stickers for four-month periods -- July through October, November through February and March through June. For each four-month period, the owners would only pay one-third the usual 12-month registration fee.

Former Gov. George Ryan's Illinois FIRST Program increased all truck and trailer registration fees by 25 percent. Many farm vehicles are only used seasonally -- for planting or harvest -- so their owners should not be required to pay the 12-month registration fee. With a tough economy and so many farmers struggling, this legislation makes sense.

Under current law, the registration fees and taxes imposed on farm trucks and farm trailers cannot be reduced or prorated.



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A farm truck is any truck used exclusively for the owner's own agriculture, horticultural or livestock raising operations, or any truck used only in the transportation of seasonal, fresh, perishable fruit or vegetables from farm to the point of first processing. These vehicles may be registered by paying a $10 registration fee and a highway use tax based on truck and load weight. The amounts can range from $150 to nearly $1,500 per year.

A farm trailer (determined by guidelines similar to those defining a farm truck) may be registered by paying a $10 registration fee and a highway use tax based on trailer and load weight. The amounts can range from $60 to $650 per year.

What is suggested is that a farm truck or trailer may, at the owner's option, be registered for a period of four months at a time, at a cost of one-third of the applicable yearly registration fee. The secretary of state would provide a distinctive decal for each four-month period, and the vehicle owner would simply affix the decal to the vehicle's license plate.

Senate Bill 1471 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.

[News release]

Weekly outlook on markets

[MARCH 13, 2003]  URBANA -- Compared with a typical year, there are a few more uncertainties about the demand for old crop corn and soybeans this marketing year, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"Still, the focus will be largely on 2003 production prospects," said Darrel Good. Good's comments came as he completed a midyear assessment of the corn and soybean markets.

"March 1 marks the midpoint of the corn and soybean marketing year. It has been a bit of a tradition to review the progress of corn and soybean consumption at this time of transition from old crop to new crop focus."

Good noted that the export picture for both corn and soybeans is somewhat confused due to the large difference in export estimates among the various reports.

"In the case of corn, the USDA export inspections report shows a 13.4 percent decline in shipments from the first half of the 2001-02 marketing year to the first half of the 2002-03 marketing year, September through February," he said. "The USDA's export sales report shows an 8.3 percent decline for the same time period.

"The Census Bureau export estimates through December showed a decline of 4.8 percent, while USDA reports through December showed declines of 9.5 percent and 5.7 percent."

For soybeans, the USDA export inspection report shows a 2.2 percent decline in shipments during the first half of the current marketing year, and the USDA export sales report is consistent, showing a 2.1 percent decline.

"However, the Census Bureau estimates through December showed a decline of 13.8 percent, while USDA estimates for the same period indicated declines of 8.6 percent and 8 percent," Good said. "It appears that Census Bureau estimates, which became the official estimates, have overstated corn exports and understated soybean exports. The discrepancies suggest some errors in reporting to the Census Bureau. If the discrepancies continue, the USDA will report a very large residual use of soybeans in the supply-demand balance sheet and will understate feed and residual use of corn."

Typically, the rate of soybean exports declines sharply beginning in March or April due to the availability of South American soybeans. The extremely large crop currently being harvested in South America suggests that the rate of U.S. soybean exports will drop more than the normal amount this year.

However, USDA estimates show that as of Feb. 27, 148 million bushels of U.S. soybeans had been sold for export, but not yet shipped.

"That is only 2 percent less than unshipped sales of a year ago," Good noted. "Export shipments plus sales account for 96.3 percent of projected exports for the year, with 26 weeks remaining in the marketing year. China accounts for 25 percent of the unshipped sales. Unless all of the sales to China are canceled, it appears that exports of U.S. soybeans will exceed the current USDA projection."



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U.S. corn exports show less of a seasonal pattern than U.S. soybean exports. In three of the past four years, shipments have been slow in the December through February period but recovered in the last half of the marketing year. Some hope for a late recovery in corn exports this year was generated by very large sales during the week that ended Feb. 27. Even so, unshipped sales as of Feb. 27 totaled only 215 million bushels, 25 percent less than on the same date last year. Unless sales continue to be large for several weeks, shipments for the year may fall short of the current USDA projection.

Good noted that the domestic soybean crush has also slowed recently. For the first five months of the marketing year, the crush totaled 710.4 million bushels, 3.5 percent less than the total during the same period last year. For the entire 2002-03 marketing year, the USDA has projected a 2.6 percent decline in the domestic crush. A sharp reduction in soybean meal exports accounts for the slower pace of crush.

"The USDA reports meal shipments through Feb. 27 at 3.04 million tons, 16 percent less than the total of a year ago," said Good. "Unshipped sales as of Feb. 27 totaled only 1.4 million tons, 32 percent less than on the same date last year. A shortfall in the domestic crush may partly offset the impact of larger-than-expected exports."

Domestic corn consumption reveals two different trends. Processing use of corn is up sharply, driven by increased use of corn for ethanol production. Use for all food and industrial purposes during the 2002-03 marketing year may exceed the USDA projection of 2.265 billion bushels. Feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the marketing year was estimated to be 7.6 percent less than during the same quarter last year.

"Part of the reason for the large decline was the Census Bureau estimate of exports during the quarter," said Good. "Using the USDA's estimate of exports, feed and residual use during the quarter was down 6.2 percent. The March 1 “Grain Stocks” report, to be released on March 31, will provide an estimate of feed and residual use of corn during the second quarter of the marketing year.

"The rate of decline compared to last year is expected to be smaller than during the first quarter. For the year, the USDA projects a 4.7 percent decline in feed and residual use of corn."

[University of Illinois news release]

Honors & Awards

Hartem FFA has three district winners

[MARCH 17, 2003]  Three Hartsburg-Emden FFA members were named District 3 winners at the district interviews for their record-keeping project areas. Winners were Krista Ubbenga, Natalie Coers and Matthew Wrage. These FFA members now advance to Champaign on April 5 to determine the state winner.

Other Hartem FFA members who did not advance past district were Shane Westen (came in second), Nic Alberts, Kory Leesman and Kyle Hoerbert.

[Hartsburg-Emden FFA news release]

[courtesy of Hartem FFA]
Hartem FFA members (left to right) Kyle Hoerbert, Krista Ubbenga, Shane Westen, Matt Wrage, Natalie Coers, Kory Leesman and Nic Alberts

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