skip to Main Content

USDA Releases 10-Year Agricultural Projections- Focus on Corn, Soybeans

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 10-year projections for the food and agricultural sector.  The report noted that, “Over the next several years, the agricultural sector continues to adjust to lower prices for most farm commodities. Planted acreage drops slightly despite continued low energy costs. However, marked shifts occur – most notably strong global demand for soybeans is expected to induce soybean plantings that exceed corn acreage. Lower feed costs and continued strong global demand provide economic incentives for expansion in the livestock sector.”  Today’s update highlights aspects of the report that focused on corn and soybeans.


After establishing a set of macroeconomic and policy assumptions, USDA indicated that, “Demand for U.S. corn is projected to continue to grow over the next decade both domestically and internationally as expanding meat production increases feed usage. Despite planted area dropping as real prices and relative net returns fall, in part due to large stocks and rising global demand for soybeans and sorghum, increasing yields support the growing demand.”

Graph from, “USDA Long-term Projections,” February 2018.

The report stated that, “While falling corn production will characterize the first few years, increases are expected in the later years. Lower corn prices suggest higher feed and residual use, helping to fuel increasing meat production. As ethanol production drops, production of distillers grains – a co-product of dry mill ethanol production used as feed – will also drop, further supporting the use of corn for feed.”

With respect to ethanol, USDA explained that, “Corn remains the primary feedstock for ethanol production in the United States and corn- based ethanol production is projected to rise slowly over the next couple years and then decline to levels consistent with those in 2016 by the end of the decade. This reflects infrastructure, geographical and other constraints on growth for higher level ethanol blends (E15 and E85), and falling U.S. gasoline consumption due to rising fuel efficiency, rising real costs of fossil fuels, and changing consumer lifestyles and urban transport modes.

Falling demand for fuel ethanol and a growing demand for corn for other uses means that by the end of the next decade, corn used for ethanol production declines from a high of over 38 percent of total use to below 35 percent.

Looking at corn exports, Thursday’s report stated that, “The United States remains the world’s largest corn exporter over the projection period. Rising incomes, particularly in developing economies, translate to increasing demand for meat, bolstering demand for corn for feed…However, combined with greater competition from Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine, and growing domestic feed use, the U.S. market share of global corn trade will slowly fall below 30 percent over the projection period.”


Turning to soybeans, USDA noted that, “Increasing global demand and rising domestic use for soybeans is expected to cause prices to rise and generate higher producer returns, producing incentives to increase plantings.

For the first time, soybean plantings are expected to rise above corn, hovering around 91 to 92 million acres.

Graph from, “USDA Long-term Projections,” February 2018.

“Increased demand for soybean meal and oil, and hence crush, are projected over the next decade. These gains reflect low expected feed prices, increasing livestock production, a modest rise in biodiesel and renewable diesel production, and steady demand by foreign importers as incomes continue to rise globally.”

The report also pointed out that, “Strong global demand for soybeans – particularly in China – boosts U.S. soybean trade over the projection period. While soybean exports are projected to rise, competition from South America – primarily Brazil, the world’s leading exporter – will lead to a reduced U.S. share of global soybean trade.”

Closer Look at Corn, Soybean Trade Issues

Looking more closely at corn and soybean trade issues, the USDA report stated that, “U.S. corn exports are expected to increase by 7.6 million tons over the projection period and reach 55.9 million tons in 2027/28. Strong export competition leads to a reduction of the U.S. share of world corn exports (from 30.8 to 29.6 percent) over the projection period; the past 7-year average is 33.1 percent, well below the 59-percent share for the 2001/02 to 2010/11 period.”

Graph from, “USDA Long-term Projections,” February 2018.

The baseline outlook added that, “Annual corn exports by the countries of the FSU [Former Soviet Union], mostly Ukraine, are expected to rise by 9.2 million tons (32 percent), reaching 38.1 million tons in 2027/28…Argentine corn production is projected to increase dramatically, reflecting a large reform-induced increase in area in 2016/17 and continued yield growth throughout the projection period…[and Brazilian] exports rise by 25.7 percent from 35.6 million tons in 2018/19 to 44.8 million tons by 2027/28.”

In more detail on soybean export issues, the USDA update stated that, “The three leading soybean exporters—Brazil, the United States, and Argentina—are projected to account for about 87 percent of world soybean trade over the next decade.”

Graph from, “USDA Long-term Projections,” February 2018.

Brazil’s soybean exports are projected to rise 30 million tons (45 percent) to 96.4 million tons during the projection period (2018/19 to 2027/28), enabling the country to strengthen its position as the world’s leading soybean exporter…[and]… the U.S. share of global soybean exports, are at about 40.3 percent in 2018/19 and projected to decrease to 33.4 percent by 2027/28.”

With respect to Argentina, the report noted that, “Most of Argentina’s soybean exports go to China. Nonetheless, Argentina remains a distant third to Brazil and the United States as a soybean exporter as most of the country’s crop is processed domestically.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

Back To Top