ISA farmer members get firsthand look at latest WASDE report

July 14, 2022 | Jeff Hutton

Iowa soybeans farmers were disappointed in this month’s numbers provided in this week’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report,  but gained a greater appreciation and understanding of the metrics by which the WASDE report is created.

“I don’t think the July WASDE outlook was exactly what farmers were hoping for, but at the end of the day, I don’t know that I’d dispute the accuracy of the figures presented,” says Mary Lauver, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer member from Rockwell City.

U.S. soybean production is projected at 4.5 billion bushels, down 135 million bushels (mb) on a lower harvested area.

Limited precipitation in some soybean-growing regions played a part in a forecasted reduction in soybean harvested area. The harvested area, forecast at 87.5 million acres in the June 30 Acreage report, is down 2.6 million acres from last month.

“Just in our area alone, there is significant variability in rain – with pockets of no rain, and others with measurable amounts of rain. I can see how recent weather factors into the soybean production outlook,” Lauver says.

Fellow ISA farmer member Brian Strasser from Homestead agreed.

“In our particular area, we’re looking pretty good moisture-wise,” he says. “There’s a fair amount of variability in soybeans across Iowa, so I understand the report’s projected outlook and variability month to month and overall soy production being projected slightly lower than June.”

Both Lauver and Strasser were in the briefing room at the USDA in Washington, D.C., when the report was released. They and others were in the nation’s capital as part of the Iowa-Missouri Policy Leaders Fellowship (PLF), a collaborative, one-year experience for young soybean farmers from Iowa and Missouri who possess a desire to learn more about government and the legislative process, all while improving their core leadership and advocacy skills.

Yield unchanged

The soybean yield forecast remains unchanged at 51.5 bushels per acre. With lower production partly offset by higher beginning stocks, 2022/23 soybean supplies are reduced 125 mb.

The USDA notes soybean crush is reduced 10 mb reflecting a lower soybean meal export forecast. Soybean exports are reduced 65 mb to 2.14 billion on lower U.S. supplies, increased South American supplies and lower global imports.

With lower supplies only partly offset by reduced use, ending stocks for 2022/23 are projected at 230 mb, down 50 mb from last month. The U.S. season-average soybean price for 2022/23 is forecast at $14.40 per bushel, down 30 cents from last month. The soybean meal price is projected at $390 per short ton, down $10. The soybean oil price forecast of 69 cents per pound is down 1 cent.

Eye-opening experience

The experience has been eye-opening for the PLF participants.

“Visiting USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) information office and WASDE report briefing firsthand was an experience I will never forget,” says Tarin Tiefenthaler, ISA farmer member from Carroll. “As a farmer, there’s peace of mind knowing just how comprehensive each report is and how meticulous each commodity outlook is tracked month by month around the world by ag-focused statisticians. It’s a helpful gauge on crop production and producer success for the year.”

Seeing what goes on behind the scenes was a unique opportunity, Lauver says.

“The WASDE report is truly a reflection of our daily lives – prices going up and down, month by month. Seeing how these figures are put together each month was a very valuable experience,” she says.

Before seeing the report presented firsthand during the briefing lock-up in D.C., Strasser was a skeptic about the methodology that goes into the monthly WASDE reports.

“Before touring the USDA’s NASS office, I was critical of what they did. After seeing the tour and how these reports, specifically WASDE, are pulled together, I have so much more respect for what USDA’s NASS staff does,” he says. “These are not just ‘guesses’ on the outlook of global crop production. They have solid reasoning and healthy debates internally to provide these commodity outlooks, including global soybean production.”

Brock Johnston contributed to this report.