URBANA — Corn and soybean prices could remain high for "an extended period," a University of Illinois agricultural economist said following the Agriculture Department's release of new crop estimates.
The department on Friday cut its estimate of the U.S. corn crop by 17 percent and the U.S. soybean crop by 12 percent.
If those figures hold, the U.S. corn crop would be the smallest since 2006 and the U.S. soybean crop the smallest since 2007.
UI ag economist Darrel Good said the forecasts were generally in the range of expectations, though the projected soybean crop was "smaller than generally expected."
"Substantial rationing of corn and soybeans will be required in the year ahead, suggesting that prices will remain strong for an extended period to ensure the necessary rationing occurs," Good said.
"New highs in both corn and soybean prices cannot be ruled out," he said.
Corn has been trading above $8 a bushel, while soybean prices have been in the $16 range. Soybean prices moved higher Friday after the new estimates came out, while corn prices moved lower.
Also Friday, the Agriculture Department projected average yields of 123.4 bushels per acre for corn and 36.1 bushels per acre for soybeans.
That would be the lowest yield for corn since 1995 and the lowest yield for soybeans since 2003, Good said.
Corn and soybean yields will be equal to or above last year's yields in Southern states, but well below last year's yields in most Corn Belt states.
Cory Winstead, an account manager with AgriVisor in Bloomington, said Friday's crop estimates were pretty much in line with what he expected. But he was intrigued by the yield estimates for corn and soybeans.
Winstead said he was a bit surprised to see the department lower the yield estimate for corn by another 23 bushels per acre. But he said anyone who looked at fields can understand why the department did so.
Corn yields in central Illinois usually outstrip national yield averages by 20 bushels an acre, Winstead said.
With yield estimates of 80 to 100 bushels per acre in the Litchfield area and estimates of 150 to 160 bushels per acre in areas farther north, Winstead said, the central Illinois average could prove to be about 135 bushels per acre, "believe it or not."
As for soybeans, Winstead said he thinks the central Illinois yield average could be 38 or 39 bushels — slightly higher than the national estimated yield average.