Compared to last year, the first pasture-condition report issued by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) this season indicates a more positive start, especially in the West and Southeast.

Nationally, 53% of the nation’s pasture and range is rated as Good or Excellent, which is 5% more than at the same time last year.

Regionally, analysts with the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) explain, “The Western Region reported about a quarter of pasture and range was in the worst two categories, much better than last year when it had 35% classified in those categories. The Cornbelt, which has benefited from plenty of moisture this spring, reported Poor to Very Poor conditions at 8% vs. 11% last year, while conditions in the Great Plains were reported at 15% Poor to Very Poor, down from the 27% at this time last year.”

It’s the Southern Plains, especially Texas, getting off to a significantly drier start than a year ago. The LMIC folks point out a third of all pasture and range in the region was reported as Very Poor to Poor, compared to 20% last year and 23% for the five-year average.

On the other side of the growing fence, corn producers received favorable market news last week. Besides planting being so far off pace (see crop reports below), USDA has lowered expected production, while increasing expected demand.

According to the most recent “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” (WASDE), 2009-10 corn production is projected at 12.1 billion bu., down 11 million bu. from 2008-09, with fewer acres planted offsetting higher expected yields. At the same time, WASDE increased estimates of corn use, especially for ethanol production and exports. Consequently, U.S. corn ending stocks for 2009-10 are projected down 28% to 1.1 billion bu. The season-average farm price is projected at $3.70-$4.50/bu. compared with the record $4.20 reported for 2007-08 and the $4.10-$4.30 projected for 2008-09.

Soybean crush for 2009-10 is projected to increase 2% to 1.675 billion bu., reflecting a small increase in domestic meal use and higher exports, according to WASDE. Ending stocks are projected at 230 million bu., resulting in a relatively low stocks-to-use ratio at 7%. The U.S. season-average soybean price for 2009-10 is projected at $8.45-$10.45/bu. compared with $9.85 in 2008-09. Soybean meal prices are forecast at $260-$320/ton, compared with $305 for 2008-09.

As for wheat, WASDE estimates 19% less production and 4% less use. Despite lower expected use and higher beginning stocks, ending stocks are projected down 5% at 637 million bu. The season-average farm price for all wheat is projected at $4.70-$5.70/bu., below the record $6.85 for 2008-09.
For the week ending May 10, according to NASS:

Corn – 48% is planted, the same as last year, but 23% behind the five-year average. Producers in Iowa continued to plant at a rapid pace, despite much of the state receiving rainfall during the week. Progress in Illinois, at just 10% complete, remained over a week behind the previous year and more than three weeks behind the average. 14% has emerged, compared to 10% last year and 28% for average. Development was behind the five-year average pace in all states except Iowa and Nebraska.

Soybeans – 14% is planted, which is 3% ahead of last year but 11% behind normal. As producers continued to battle soggy fields and wet weather, planting in Illinois and North Dakota had yet to begin, and was over a week behind normal.

Winter wheat – 40% advanced to the heading stage, 6% ahead of the same time last year, but 8% behind average. While maturation neared completion in Arkansas and California, the most development occurred in Kansas, where 29% of the crop headed during the week. 46% is rated Good or Excellent, compared to 47% at the same time last year.

Spring wheat – 35% of the crop is in the ground, which is 42% behind last year, or more than a week behind. Compared to the five-year average it’s 43% behind, or two week off the pace. South Dakota made the most progress, with 24% of the acreage seeded during the week. 13% has emerged, which is 11% behind last year and 25% in back of average. The most maturation was evident in Idaho’s crop, where warmer temperatures during the week aided crop development.

Barley – 33% of seeding is complete; 40% behind last year and 41% behind average. Progress remained behind last year and average in all states. 12% has emerged, which is 12% in back of last year and 24% behind the average pace.

Sorghum – 31% of the intended acreage is sown, 3% behind last year and 2% behind the average. Producers in Arkansas and Louisiana made a strong push in planting during the week, getting 27% and 25% of the crop in the ground, respectively. However, progress in both states remained behind normal.

Oats – 80% of planting is complete, on par with last year, but 9% behind the five-year average. The most progress was made in South Dakota and Minnesota, where 28% and 19% of the crop was sown during the week, respectively. 60% has emerged, 10 points ahead of last year, but five points behind the five-year average. Iowa’s crop showed the most development, progressing 26% during the week. The most crop development during the week occurred in Ohio, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. 45% was rated Good and Excellent.

Pasture – 53% of the nation’s pasture and range is rated as Good or Excellent, 5% more than at the same time last year. 18% is rated Poor or Very Poor, compared to 21% a year ago.

States with the worst pasture conditions – at least 30% of the acreage rated Poor or worse – include: Arizona (49%); California (60%); Florida (59%); New Mexico (61%); and Texas (41%).

The lushest conditions – at least 40% rated Good or better – exist in: Alabama (81%); Arkansas (69%); Georgia (60%); Idaho (90%); Illinois (83%); Indiana (74%); Iowa (63%); Kansas (63%); Kentucky (67%); Louisiana (64%); Maine (74%); Maryland (87%); Michigan (60%); Minnesota (55%); Mississippi (74%); Missouri (63%); Montana (47%); Nebraska (71%); Nevada (48%); New York (72%); North Carolina (70%); North Dakota (44%); Ohio (64%); Oklahoma (53%); Oregon (65%); Pennsylvania (75%); South Carolina (64%); South Dakota (63%); Tennessee (76%); Utah (54%); Virginia (76%); Washington (40%); Wisconsin (63%); and Wyoming (69%).