Iowa Derecho Analysis

A topic that has been on many crop farmers minds is the derecho that took place in much of Iowa on 10 August. Steve Johnson, Iowa State University Farm Management Field Specialist, recently reviewed what is known and unknown about the damage done by the derecho. Initial reports indicated 10 million acres damaged in 57 Iowa counties. USDA’s Risk Management Agency estimated 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans were damaged. Later satellite imagery used by the Iowa Department of Agriculture estimated that 36 counties had serious damage on 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans. Initial estimates indicate a possible 150 million bushel corn production decline. Heat and drought in part of the area have added to the probable crop reduction.

Farmers now have more price uncertainty than we thought likely 3 weeks ago. Some of the damaged acres will produce some crop but no one knows how much. Some of the pictures of the Iowa derecho damage lead one to suspect some cornfields will only be able to be harvested in one direction. Some die back is evident from the satellite images released. Moreover, there is a question about whether soybeans will be more or less resilient to the derecho damage that occurred. Another issue though is the loss of millions of bushels of crop storage. Iowa coops estimate replacement will cost $300 million.

One piece of information we do have is corn crop ratings. These are lower in Iowa, Chart 1, than any year since 2012. But that isn’t the full story as Chart 2 shows. US corn crop ratings are still above 2017 and 2019. It may be possible that much of the Iowa damage will be offset by very good yields in Il, NE and MN.

Chart 1: Iowa Corn Crop Ratings.

Chart 2: US Corn Crop Ratings

Additional information will come to the market slowly. Producers should watch for solid information to plan post-harvest sales, which could put Nebraska farmers in a better financial place than we thought at the beginning of August.

Hard times don’t translate into price rallies. (2020, August 25). Farm Progress.


USDA NASS and FSA 2020 Planted Acres Estimates

One component of commodity prices for corn and soybeans during the growing season is planted acreage. Both NASS and FSA report planted acres. The data for these reports comes from two different sources. NASS surveys all corn and soybean growers in a statically designed procedure. FSA, since 2011, requires all growers enrolled in farm programs to report planted acres of program crops by July 15 of each year. Later planted acre reporting by farmers is done with a late fee. FSA reports planted acres monthly beginning in August. Due to COVID-19 the 2020 late fee has been waived for 30 days. This waiver might influence the 2020 FSA data series reliability until later in the summer. January of each year FSA publishes a final report of planted acres for the commodity program crops administered by the agency.

These different data sets and acreage reports, NASS and FSA, allows for analysis and comparison. U of IL Farmdoc Daily recently published such an analysis from Irwin and Hubbs. Not all crop acres are enrolled in USDA farm commodity programs but their analysis shows that the FSA reports from 2011-2019 account for just over 98% of the NASS final planted acres report. The Irwin and Hubbs analysis for 2020, indicates NASS probably have overestimated total planted acres while FSA reporting has been slow and probably under-reported due to COVID19. This leaves a lot of uncertainty, combined with the Iowa derecho, about total crop production for 2020.

Irwin, S. and T. Hubbs. “Using Preliminary FSA Data to Project Final Planted Acreage for Corn and Soybeans.” farmdoc daily (10):156, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 27, 2020.