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USDA Quarterly Stocks Preview

The next big USDA report day for the grain and soybean markets is just two weeks away, with the annual Crop Acreage and quarterly Grain Stocks reports due out on Friday, June 28. U.S. weather and speculation about crop acreage levels will likely dominate market talk ahead of then, leaving the Grain Stocks report as a potential source of surprise for traders. With that in mind, we want to examine quarterly usage and provide our best estimates of June 1 stocks for corn, soybeans and wheat.

As can be seen in the first graph at the bottom of the page, we estimate total corn disappearance for the third quarter of the 2023/24 marketing year at a three-year high of 3.501 billion bushels, up 198 million or 6% versus a year earlier. Actual usage data suggests March-May exports were 86.7 million bushels or 13.7% above a year earlier, while quarterly corn-for-ethanol use was 1.348 billion bushels, 4.6% above a year earlier. The big question mark as always is feed/residual use, which is an implied number, since USDA does not survey feed use. Based on historical usage patterns, we estimate Q3 corn feed use was up 4.4% over a year earlier despite increased DDGS production.

Despite the stronger use, we estimate June 1 corn stocks at a four-year high of 4.852 billion bushels, up 749 million or 18.3% from a year earlier, in the wake of the record large 2023 corn crop. We also expect a higher-than-normal percentage of stocks to be in on-farm storage, as was the case on March 1, raising potential for pressure on corn prices as producers clear bins ahead of harvest.

Looking at soybean use, we estimate total Q3 soybean disappearance at a three-year low of 863 million bushels, down 33 million or 3.7% versus a year earlier, due mostly to slower exports. We forecast June 1 soybean stocks at a four-year high of 991 million bushels, up 95 million or 10.6% from a year earlier. Actual usage data suggests March-May exports totaled 227 million bushels, down 7.3% from a year earlier amid reduced demand from China. Meanwhile, data suggests the Q3 soybean crush was down 4 million bushels from last year at 570 million.

Looking at wheat usage for March-May, Q4 of the wheat marketing year, we estimate total Q4 wheat disappearance at a three-year high of 434 million bushels, up 40 million or 10.1% from a year earlier on stronger export shipments. Actual usage data suggests Q4 export shipments were 221 million bushels, up 61 million or 38.1% versus last year. We estimate June 1 wheat stocks at 680 million bushels, up 98 million or 16.8% versus last year, but 8 million bushels below our (and USDA’s) current 2023/24 carryout projection of 688 million. However, quarterly wheat feed/residual use, an implied number, is extremely difficult to pin down and we can really only guesstimate it based on historical data.


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