Are The USDA Numbers Overstated?

The highest corn yield ever by a country mile, and record production estimates for both beans and corn might not paint quite such an accurate picture as the USDA would like to make out.

Whilst very few people (except the odd deranged conspiracy theorist) would argue that US farmers have largely had anything other than some bloody good crops this year, many think that the USDA may be overestimating just how good things have been.

They did however issue a "rider" with Tuesdays numbers, saying that further surveys in states where the harvest was delayed may lead to these figures being amended in March.

So what are the real numbers? Respected private firm Lanworth Inc., who use perhaps a more sophisticated combination of satellite imagery, field surveys and ground data from the top producing states (as opposed to the USDA's approach of one Spectrum ZX, some crayons and a pack of cards) say 12.318 billion bushels for corn and 3.081 billion bushels for soybeans.

Still some pretty weighty numbers, but 6.3% lower than the USDA on corn, and 8.3% lower in the case of beans.

Which also beggars the question, if the USDA can't accurately tell us what size the crops are that have already been harvested, the how far out are their planting intentions likely to be in the spring? We've now got to wait until March 31st to get the USDA's first stab at getting those right for corn & beans. And whilst we're on the subject, what about their winter wheat area which came in lower than the lowest trade estimate, and almost 4 million below the average trade guess of 40.916 million acres?