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USDA crop progress: Corn quality takes an unexpected step lower

Winter wheat quality also drops, as soybean quality held steady last week.

The 2020 U.S. corn crop has started the year with a faster-than-average planting pace and relatively good quality. But that quality eroded four points last week, according to the latest USDA crop progress report out Monday afternoon, which covers the week ending June 14.

Analysts thought the agency would hold crop quality steady from the prior week’s tally of 75% rated in good-to-excellent condition. But USDA knocked quality ratings four points lower to 71%. Another 24% is rated fair (up three points from last week), with the remaining 5% rated poor or very poor. Statewide quality ratings continue to vary widely. In Colorado, only 26% is rated good-to-excellent, while in Pennsylvania, 91% is rated good to excellent.

Physiologically, 95% of the national crop is now emerged, versus the prior five-year average of 92% and 2019’s dismal pace of 74%. USDA is no longer tracking planting progress.

For soybeans, crop quality held steady, consistent with trade expectations, with 72% of the crop still rated in good-to-excellent condition. Another 24% of the crop is rated fair, with the remaining 4% rated poor or very poor, all unchanged from the prior week. There is moderate variance between the top two production states – Iowa and Illinois – despite the proximity between them. In Iowa, 82% of the crop is rated good-to-excellent, while in Illinois, only 64% of the crop has the two ratings.

Soybean plantings are nearly concluded this year, with 93% of the crop now in the ground. That puts 2020’s pace moderately ahead of the prior five-year average of 88% and far ahead of 2019’s pace of 72%. And 81% of the crop is now emerged, versus 2019’s pace of 49% and the five-year average of 75%.

This year’s spring wheat crop is finally in the ground, with 95% now emerged. That’s slightly behind the prior five-year average of 97% but a bit ahead of 2019’s pace of 92%. From a quality standpoint, 81% of the crop is now rated in good-to-excellent condition, sliding a point lower from last week.

Winter wheat crop quality also dropped a point last week, moving to 50% rated in good-to-excellent condition. Analysts were expecting quality ratings to hold steady. Another 31% of the crop is rated fair (up a point from last week) with the remaining 19% rated poor or very poor (unchanged from a week ago).

The 2019/20 winter wheat harvest is also progressing more slowly than analyst expectations, reaching 15% this past week. That is consistent with the prior five-year average, however. Only half of the top 18 production states have made measurable harvest progress so far. Ninety-one percent of the crop is headed, with USDA noting 100% progress for seven of the top 18 production states (Arkansas, California, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas).

Click here to read the latest USDA crop progress report in its entirety.

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