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US corn glut expanding at fastest pace since 2005

Corn grows in a field near Malden, Illinois. A bumper harvest in 2013 means U.S. corn stockpiles are rising at the fastest pace in nine years. (Bloomberg News)

By Jeff Wilson

CHICAGO — Iowa farmer Julius Schaaf isn’t waiting for his corn to grow kernels before he sells this year. As last season’s record harvest spurs bulging inventories, he’s playing it safe, even as most growers hold onto their grain.

“We had perfect planting conditions, and everything is in place to produce a big crop,” said Schaaf, 61, who has already sold 70 percent of the grain he plans to produce on 3,800 acres of corn and soybeans near Randolph, Iowa. That compares with the 25 percent he would normally have sold by this time of year. “I feel pretty good with my hedge positions, because it is evident that prices will take a downturn. With above-average yields, it will be close to break-even.”

A bumper harvest in 2013 means stockpiles in the United States, the world’s biggest grower, are rising at the fastest pace in nine years, according to traders and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Ample rains and warm weather boosted early crop development for this season and allowed farmers to plant more than the government estimated in March, a separate survey showed. Prices will fall about 9.5 percent in six months, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecasts.

Corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade fell 15 percent since the end of April to $4.4225 a bushel. The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 raw materials rose 2.1 percent, while the MSCI All-Country World index of equities gained 3.3 percent. The Bloomberg Treasury Bond Index advanced 0.7 percent.

Goldman sees futures at $4 in six months, the bank said in a Monday report. Bigger crops are helping to keep a lid on global food inflation, with the United Nations reporting a second monthly drop in prices in May. The grain glut is cutting costs for livestock producers and ethanol makers including Poet and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.

U.S. inventories on June 1 probably jumped 35 percent to 3.723 billion bushels (94.6 million metric tons), the biggest gain since 2005, according to the average of 27 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Farmers planted 91.71 million acres this spring, a separate survey showed. That’s up from 91.69 million forecast in March by the Department of Agriculture. The agency will update its estimates next week.