The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimated that 91 percent of the 2018 U.S. soybean crop had been harvested as of November 18. This was up three percentage points from the previous week and compares to 96 percent-harvested this time last year. While the U.S. crop has been slow to harvest this year, due in part to cold, wet weather across much of the Corn Belt this year, it is still on-pace to be a harvest for the record books. USDA’s November Crop Production report pegged this year’s U.S. soybean harvest at 4.6 billion bushels. This was down slightly from previous estimates due to slight reductions to both yield and harvested acreage expectations but is still expected to be about 190 million bushels above the previous record crop that hit the bins last year.
While this year’s harvest pace may be a bit slower than recent history, a longer look at history reminds us of the impacts that recent advances in technology have had on farmers’ ability to collect their crops quickly. Before the days of GPS-guided tractors and precision agriculture, it was not uncommon to see farmers take advantage of freezing temperatures to help finish drying their crops in the fields. Anecdotal reports from farmers this fall suggest that this is the case this year as limited storage options at the tail-end of harvest have spurred many farmers to remain patient to gather the tail-end of this year’s crops.