The following information was prepared by members of the Wheat, Feed Grains, Rice, and Oilseeds Interagency Commodity Estimates Committees, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and presented at the Agricultural Outlook Forum held in Washington, D.C., last week.

Soybean supplies for 2012/13 are projected at 3,540 million bushels, up 8 percent from 2011/12 as both beginning stocks and production are expected to be larger.

Soybean production is projected 6 percent higher at 3,250 million bushels due to increased harvested area and yield.

Soybean plantings are projected unchanged from 2011 at 75 million acres.

Soybean prices are below levels seen last spring, and relatively higher expected net returns for corn are expected to leave little incentive for increased soybean plantings in 2012.

However, harvested area is expected to increase as abandonment is assumed to return to a more normal rate in several states that were affected by adverse weather in 2011.

Assuming normal weather conditions for the 2012/13 crop, the national average soybean yield is projected at 43.9 bushels per acre, up 2.4 bushel from the weather-depressed 2011 yield.

The 2012/13 yield projection is based on a U.S. trend yield from 1989 to 2010. If realized, this year’s projected yield would be the second highest after the record of 44 bushels per acre in 2009.

Soybean domestic use is projected at 1,785 million bushels, up 3 percent from 2011/12. Crush is projected to increase 45 million bushels to 1,660 million supported by improved soybean meal exports and a slight increase in domestic demand.

Soybean meal exports are projected slightly higher supported by reduced competition from India.

Projected gains in domestic soybean meal feeding are less than 1 percent due to limited expansion in the pork and poultry sectors in 2012. Soybean meal prices for 2012/13 are projected to average $295 per short ton, down $10 from the mid-point of the projected range for 2011/12.

U.S. domestic disappearance of soybean oil is expected to increase 2 percent to 18.0 billion pounds in 2012/13, supported by a higher biodiesel use mandate for 2012.

Soybean oil used in U.S. biodiesel production is projected at 3.8 billion pounds, up 200 million from 2011/12. At this level, soybean oil is assumed to account for about half of expected U.S. biodiesel production from all fats and oils.

Food use to increase slightly

Food use is projected to increase slightly from 2011/12 at 14.2 billion pounds.

Soybean oil stocks are projected at 2.24 billion pounds, down 80 million from 2011/12. With increased use, stocks are projected to decline to an 8-year low.

Soybean oil prices are projected at 52.5 cents per pound, the same level as the midpoint of the projected range for 2011/12.

With substantial growth in supply and continued strong foreign demand, U.S. soybean exports are projected at a record 1,550 million bushels in 2012/13.

The U.S. share of global

trade is likely to rise partly supported by reduced competition from South American countries, where exportable supplies are impacted by drought-reduced crops expected to be harvested in 2012.

Foreign demand growth will be driven by China, which accounts for more than half of world imports.

Key factors supporting China’s soybean imports for 2012/13 include strong demand for vegetable oil, growth in the livestock sector, expansion in the crushing sector, and government policies.

In contrast, minimal increases are anticipated in soybean demand by other top importing countries — including the EU-27, Japan, and South Korea.

Modest growth is expected for world trade in soybean meal supported by stronger demand in the EU and Southeast Asian countries. U.S. exports are projected to grow 5 percent in 2012/13 to 9.2 million short tons.

Soybean meal exports by Argentina also are likely to expand, while exports by India are expected to decline due to strong growth in domestic consumption.

A minimal increase is anticipated in 2012/13 for U.S. soybean oil exports, which are projected at 1.25 billion pounds. Foreign demand for U.S. soybean oil will be limited by high prices stemming from expanding domestic use and a tightening supply in the United States.

South American soybean oil exports will be constrained by growing domestic use, particularly for biodiesel.

Soybean oil imports from top importers India and China could be limited by gains in trade for palm oil and rapeseed oil.

U.S. soybean ending stocks for 2012/13 are projected at 205 million bushels, down 70 million from the level projected for 2011/12. The ending stocks-to-use ratio of 6.1 percent would be below the previous two years, but near the 5-year average of 6.3 percent.

With projected lower corn prices and less favorable forward pricing opportunities compared with a year earlier, the season-average farm price for soybeans is projected at $11.50 per bushel, down from the $11.70 mid-point of the 2011/12 projected range.