USDA economist says broiler production will drop if drought persists

But odds are unlikely of back-to-back dismal corn, soybean harvests

USDA Chief Economist Joesph Glauber is expecting 2013 to be a near-record year for both corn and soybean production, but he adds that if the drought persists and his projection is wrong, broiler production will likely drop.

“Another year of below trend yields and high prices would likely result in further liquidation of broiler numbers,” Glauber said during the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum 2013 on February 21.

His most recent outlook was nearly identical to the one he gave one year ago, before drought hit most of the grain-producing states and sent prices skyward. While he acknowledged his projections did not pan out in 2012, he has doubts that the feed crops will have two poor years in a row.“Historical odds favor a rebound in crop yields, however, which should bring significantly lower prices in 2013,” said Glauber.

Those lower prices will take the pressure off of feed costs, bringing needed relief to poultry growers.

High grain and oilseed prices support another year of large plantings for wheat, corn and soybeans, Glauber said. Combined acreage for those crops topped 230 million acres in 2012, the highest since 1982. Glauber said those planted acres will likely approach similar levels for 2013.

A return to more normal spring weather should result in more soybeans and slightly less corn planted in 2013, he said. Corn planted is projected at 96.5 million acres, down slightly from last year’s 75-year high. Soybean acreage is projected at 77.5 million acres, which, if realized, would equal the record-high level reached in 2009.

Assuming normal weather conditions for spring planting and summer crop development, the USDA is projecting a return to trend yields, resulting in record crops for corn and soybeans.