The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast domestic supplies of soybeans would remain historically tight into 2022 despite its projection for a record-large harvest this autumn.
The news pushed soybean prices, which had soared through the fall and early winter, slightly higher as trading ended for the week.
Traders focused on the USDA's latest crop supply and demand projections, released Friday afternoon during its annual Ag Outlook Forum. They contained the agency's first supply estimate for the upcoming crop.
U.S. stockpiles of corn and soybeans are expected to increase only slightly by the end of the marketing year on Aug. 31, 2022, as strong demand was seen absorbing record-large harvests of the crops that will be planted this spring.
"The USDA really stoked up the demand to offset those record crops. That kind of a demand increase is really going to be a push," said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics.
The recent rally that drove corn and soybean futures to multiyear highs — shaped in part by strong Chinese demand and falling U.S. inventories — led to extra attention on the USDA's expectations for this year's planting.
The agency forecast 2021 corn plantings at 92 million acres and soybeans at 90 million acres, which would be the largest-ever combined plantings for the two crops. The corn acreage projection was slightly below trade expectations, while soybean acreage was a bit above.
"While the current price structure would lead U.S. farmers to favor soybeans, they will nevertheless hesitate, as corn crops are easier to grow agronomically," consultancy Agritel said in a note.
On Friday, corn futures were mixed, with nearby contracts slipping from earlier highs on profit-taking ahead of the weekend.
Soybean futures' gains were partly offset by slowing U.S. export demand as the South American harvest continues to ramp up. Corn futures were pressured by an improving outlook for Brazil's crop this year. Wheat futures fell as traders banked some gains from earlier in the week.