Reports and data released by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) serve as the primary informers of the fundamentals underlying domestic and global agricultural futures markets. The schedule of key USDA reports reflects the seasonality of agricultural markets, with the annual Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings report kicking off the calendar year with a January release. The quarterly Grain Stocks report is then released on the last business day in January. The last business day of March brings Prospective Plantings, which reports the planting intentions of the nation’s farmers for principal crops (including major grains, oilseeds, legumes, and some starchy vegetables), sourced from a survey of tens of thousands of farm operators. Crop Progress begins in April, reported on the first business day of each week until the end of November. The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), which is released monthly throughout the year, holds special significance in May, when the report contains the first supply and demand estimates for the new marketing year. Acreage, an annual report released on the last business day in June, follows up on the metrics addressed in Prospective Plantings, enumerating reported planted acreage for principal crops. Like the May report, the September WASDE holds special significance among the report’s monthly issues, reporting yield and production for spring-planted crops at the conclusion of their harvest.
World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimates (WASDE, or WSD)
The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (known as the WASDE or, alternatively, WSD) is a monthly report comprised of annual supply and demand forecasts of domestic and international wheat, rice, coarse grains, oilseeds, and cotton, with some coverage of sugar, meat, poultry eggs, and milk. The report is released at 11:00 a.m. Central Time (12:00 p.m. ET) between the 9th and 12th calendar days of each month.
The WASDE serves as perhaps the most important regular informer of supply and demand for domestic markets of corn, wheat, and soybeans. Each month, industry players submit predictions to be aggregated by business intelligence firms Bloomberg LP and Refinitiv, with polling medians priced into futures markets by participants trading in anticipation of the number. When WASDE reports differ from polling expectations, the market responds: lower than expected endstocks are bullish for futures prices, while larger than expected endstocks are bearish. In terms of market movement: corn, wheat, and soybean endstocks are the numbers to watch, though constituent attributes may merit attention depending on the situation.
The WASDE is compiled by the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WOAB) and is comprised of inputs from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Economic Research Service (ERS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Reporting on domestic acreage, yield, and production is based on surveys conducted by the NASS.
The significance of individual WASDE reports reflects crop seasonality. The May WASDE contains the first estimates for supply and demand for the new marketing year, and the August and September WASDE reports contain the first production estimates and forecasts for spring-planted crops such as corn. The May WASDE also contains the first production forecasting on winter wheat, continually updating crop year production numbers until October, at which point data is finalized. Production for the current-year crop of soybeans is initially forecast in August and finalized in November.
Often referred to as Planting Intentions, Prospective Plantings is an annual report released at 11:00 a.m. CT (12:00 p.m. ET) on the last business day in March. Compiled and released by NASS, the report contains the expected planting acreage for the upcoming crop year, as well as the previous year’s harvest for principal crops. Surveys conducted by the NASS in the first two weeks of March serve as the basis for the report’s data. The 2022 report’s underlying March Agricultural Survey sampled approximately 73,000 farm operators via postal mail, email, and telephone.
Economist polling plays heavily into futures pricing leading up to the release of Prospective Plantings. In 2021, Prospective Plantings reported intended acreage for corn and soybeans that fell short of analyst expectations, sending Corn and Soybeans futures limit up that day. The March 31, 2022 Prospective Plantings report was similarly impactful. Published intended acreage below analyst expectations sent CBOT December 2022 Corn futures up 4.15 percent in the minute following the report release, from 657^6 at 11:00:00 a.m. CT to 683^2 at 11:00:59 a.m. CT.
CBOT December 2022 Corn Futures Respond to March 31, 2022 Prospective Plantings (Intraday)
Acreage, which is released on the last business day of June, can be seen as an extension of Prospective Plantings. While Prospective Plantings reports intended acreage for principal crops for the upcoming crop year, Acreage reports planted crops, serving as an indicator of how well the reality of the crop year met expectations at its outset. As is the case for many reports, analyst polling affects price movement post-release, whereby a release reporting less than expected acreage would have a bullish effect on markets; and a release reporting more than expected acreage, bearish.
Last year’s Acreage was one such report that defied expectations, with 92.7 million acres of corn reported; more than one million acres lower than the average analyst prediction of 93.8 million acres. The result was a sharp bullish move upon the release of the report, with December 2021 Corn futures seeing the contract’s largest ever one-day move on June 30, 2021 (7.29 percent).
CBOT December 2021 Corn Futures Respond to June 30, 2021 Acreage (Daily)
Crop Progress (Weekly)
Crop Progress is released at 3:00 p.m. CT (4:00 p.m. ET) on the first business day of each week, April through November. The report is comprised of data submitted from reporters who observe crop progress and environmental conditions in their respective area. Reporters are present in almost every county nationwide, and more than 75 percent of national farm acreage by respective crop is covered by the report. Crop Progress reports planting, fruiting, harvesting progress, and overall condition of corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, rice, spring wheat, peanuts, barley, oats, and winter wheat.
Grain Stocks (Quarterly)
Grain Stocks is released on the last business day of January, March, June, and September at 11:00 a.m. CT (12:00 p.m. ET) and describes stocks of wheat, durum wheat, corn, sorghum, oats, barley, soybeans, flaxseed, canola, rapeseed, rye, sunflower, safflower, mustard seed. The report enumerates stocks by state and by position (on- or off-farm), as well as the capacity of relevant facilities. Data is collected via survey from farm operators and operators of commercial enterprises such as mills, elevators, warehouses, terminals, and processors.
All examples in this report are hypothetical interpretations of situations and are used for explanation purposes only. The views in this report reflect solely those of the author and not necessarily those of CME Group or its affiliated institutions. This report and the information herein should not be considered investment advice or the results of actual market experience.