All That Unharvested Corn is Counted as On Farm Storage

USFR 12/07/19 - RT1
Corn Harvest at Goldenstein farm (test plots) ( Darrell Smith )

The 2019 harvest story is far from over. Normally, harvest would be close to wrapping up, instead, snow covered corn fields are a common sight in states like North Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin. More bad news could hit next week as more snow possibly on the way. USDA's latest crop progress report showed 36% of North Dakota's corn had been harvested as of last Monday, 59 points behind average. 

"As of the last USDA crop progress report, 1.41 billion bushels with about half of that covered in snow in one way or the other," said INTL FCStone's Arlan Suderman. 

Suderman thinks Brazil's harvest could begin before the U.S. harvest ends, another sign of how difficult 2019's harvest has been. However, the market's mood hasn't seem to change based on the lack of progress in the northern Corn Belt, despite the fact there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the crop still sitting in the field.  

"That corn sitting there was snow on top of it, what happens by the time we get to an opportunity to harvest," asked Scott Brown, University of Missouri economist. "It could certainly affect quality at a minimum."

If the corn doesn't get harvested by the time the big January crop report hits from USDA, just how will the crop be counted? 

"To our understanding, they'll talk about those as actually on farm storage in place in terms of what we have today," said Brown. 

Brown said it's hard to count those bushels differently. 

"In terms of where we end up at the end of the day, we're a long ways from having that crop in a place where we feel confident that we know how much we have," said Brown. 

Brown says it's hard to come up with a final number, as key questions remain about quality and quantity. Suderman says USDA will do its best to get a handle of some of those factors in its January report, but through farmer surveys. 

"That's a real challenge," said Suderman. "They're going to ask the farmers, 'How much have you produced or after you're finished harvesting, what will you have produced, and what are your harvested acres,' and they'll figure out a national average yield from that. They're quite confident in their process. If necessary, they'll come back and re survey later in the winter. They've indicated such but they have to consider it for their stocks report as existing someplace, and so it's considered on farm storage."

Still, both analysts say this is a crop with a long tail, waiting possibly until fall to see how the 2019 crop ended up.