When Jeff Wilson heads-out Monday for the 2018 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, he’ll be stepping into the unknown. How big is the corn crop in the western Corn Belt? Are USDA’s August projections correct? Did he leave a scout at the last stop?
Wilson is Senior Market Analyst for Pro Farmer, having joined the company in June of this year. Next week, he has the added responsibilities of tour director for the western leg of the annual mid-season crop assessment as it winds through South Dakota, Nebraska, western Iowa and southern Minnesota.
“I probably have gone on this crop tour at least 20 times since the mid-80s in different forms, either as a reporter for a news wire or worked as an analyst for another farm marketing organization,” says Wilson. “This has been one of the things I always look forward to, to go out and actually look at the crops, meet new people and enjoy just the conversations you have in the car between each one of the stops.”
In addition to gathering crop samples, taking measurements, and leading 60 crop scouts, Wilson will also help generate the nightly crop estimates for the districts under his charge.“Pro Farmer touts itself in the consistency of this tour. Very similar routes, they use the same mathematics each year so that the numbers are year after year after year a good comparison,” Wilson says.
This is an important part of the equation until we get to January, Wilson explains in an interview.
“The Pro Farmer Tour, I've always believed, has provided the markets information on whether or not USDA is on the right track, are they in the wrong direction or are they going too fast in terms of getting to a high yield or getting to a low yield,” Wilson says. “I think that's what we're going out there to measure.”
He also credits the workers accompanying the tour, this year and in years past. “They know how important the consistency of the sampling method is,” he says. “And I think we get a really good result, and I'm looking forward to finding out whether we have these kind of record yields.
As a new tour director, Wilson has big shoes to fill. He replaces long-time Pro Farmer editor Chip Flory who presided over the western route of the tour for 25 years. Flory is still on the tour next week but in his role as host of the nationally syndicated agribusiness radio shows, AgriTalk and AgriTalk After the Bell.
In the West
Last week, USDA released its August crop production estimates which shows the potential for a record-size soybean crop of 4.6 billion bushels and a national average corn yield at 178.4 bushels an acre.
The western leg of the tour starts in southeast South Dakota. USDA’s corn yield forecast for the state is a record 170 bushels an acre, 25 bushels higher than last year.
Nebraska also shows the potential for a record statewide corn yield of 196 bushels an acre.
The tour continues into western Iowa, where USDA puts the state corn yield at 202 bushels per acre, unchanged from last year. The last stop is Minnesota, which shows 191 bushels an acre, down 3 bushels from last year.
Pro Farmer does not estimate yield in soybeans. Rather, it focuses on pod count in a 3-by-3-foot section to help determine crop potential.
The Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour begins Monday, Aug. 20. More than 100 scouts will scour corn and soybean fields from Ohio to Nebraska, seven states in all, to get a mid-summer review of possible harvest outcomes.
Be sure to track coverage of the 2018 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop tour on www.AgWeb.com and on Twitter: #PFTour18.