USDA  on Monday morning confirmed trade expectations by cutting its estimate of U.S. corn production  by about 3%, but gave the soybean  market a mildly bearish surprise as it raised estimated soybean production  by nearly 1%, matching the high end of trade estimates.
On average, the trade had been looking for a 1% drop in U.S. soybean production with drier-than-normal weather across much of the Midwest during August thought to have stressed the crop further.
Monday morning’s monthly Crop Production Report pegged U.S. soybean production at 3.085 billion bushels compared with USDA’s August estimate of 3.056 billion and trade estimates that averaged 3.025 billion bushels in a range from 2.924 billion to 3.085 billion, according to a survey of 24 analysts done by Dow Jones Newswires. Soybean production is still expected to be down 7% from last year.
USDA pegged the U.S. corn  crop at 12.497 billion bushels, down 417 billion bushels from its August estimate and just 8 million bushels below the average of trade estimates that ranged from 11.913 billion to 12.913 billion bushels. Corn production is still expected to be up 50 million bushels from last year.
USDA raised its estimate of the national average soybean yield to 41.8 bu./acre compared with its August forecast of 41.4 bu. and pre-report expectations averaging 41.0 bu./acre in a range from 40.0 to 41.8 bu.
Monday’s crop report pegged the U.S. average corn yield at 148.1 bu./acre compared with USDA’s August forecast of 153.0 bu. and trade estimates that averaged 148.8 bu. in a range from 145.0 to 153.0 bu. The U.S. corn yield would be the lowest in six years if the current estimate holds up.
USDA did not change its estimate of harvested area for either corn or soybeans, pegging corn harvested area at 84.388 million acres and soybean harvested area at 73.823 million acres.
Some observers expect that USDA will lower its estimates of harvested acreage for both corn and soybeans due to planting delays in the northern Plains and flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
USDA released data on 2011 corn plant populations for the first time in Tuesday’s report and that data provides further evidence that poor pollination and ear-fill dragged down yields.
USDA reported that the average corn plant population per acre for the 10 "objective yield" states was the second highest on record behind 2009. Plant populations were larger than last year in eight of the ten "objective yield" states, with only Kansas and Nebraska having lower plant populations.
Corn plant populations were estimated to be record high in the top two producing states of Iowa and Illinois, and also in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.