Field Notes: For first time, Brazil expected to surpass U.S. in production of soybeans

By Amy Mayer
Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts Brazil will produce about 52 million more bushels of soybeans this year than the U.S. will, the first time the South American country will out-produce the United States.
Brazilian farmers are expected to harvest 3.067 billion bushels of soybeans this crop year, which runs from September 2012-August 2013. U.S. farmers harvested 3.015 billion bushels this crop year.
HIowa State University economist Chad Hart said market watchers have anticipated this shift and the 2012 drought across much of the Midwest hastened Brazil’s ascent. Still, Hart said U.S. farmers have seen this coming.
U.S. farmers, for corn and soybeans, have recognized that South America is an area of growing competition for us, has been for some time,” Hart said. “And they recognize that this is a natural part of how this market develops.”
Hart said the soybean market appeals to countries looking to expand their offerings in food, feed and fiber production and U.S. farmers recognize the global nature of the marketplace. In the U.S., Hart said, about 40 to 45 percent of soybeans are exported, while Brazil currently exports a full half of their crop. The primary importer is China.
The agronomic conditions that make Brazil a good place for soybeans include its temperate climate and, typically, plentiful rain, Hart said. Plus, they have more time to grow crops in a year.
“They literally have the possibility of two ample growing seasons for the same fields,” Hart said. “For example, they have fields down there where they do a corn-soybean rotation but both crops are grown within the same year.”
U.S. farmers largely harvest their soybean crop once a year.
But what’s good for growing soybeans is not necessarily good for storing them, and Hart said storage is a place where the United States retains an advantage. And those moist conditions, he said, also mean Brazil poses no threat to the United States’ number one position in corn production.

Amy Mayer joined Harvest Public Media in 2012 and works in Iowa Public Radio’s Ames office. Field Notes is the title of a blog HPM produces and provides to the Richmond News for its readers. You can read more at

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