Faulty corn forecasts make for unstable market

December 5, 2011

(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Members of the Illinois Farm Bureau gather in Chicago for their annual meeting.

Some Illinois analysts report government forecasts on the national corn crop have become increasingly unreliable. Illinois is the second largest producer of corn in the country and more than 50,000 farmers in the state grow it.

In the last few years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's predictions on corn production and stockpiles have been off more than usual. Rod Weinzierl with the Illinois Corn Growers Association said wild weather in the past few years is partly to blame. But also the USDA's predictions aren't an exact science

"They're never gonna get it right," Weinzierl said. "There's hundreds of thousands of data points out there. And it will never be perfect. You know, that's the way the market is."

Darrel Good, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois, has more than 30 years experience watching this market. He said he'd be hard pressed to find a better method for measuring and predicting than the USDA currently uses.

Good said there have been forecasting errors like this in the past, but this pattern of market volatility has persisted longer than usual, and that's been making it harder on farmers to know when to sell. 

"They have to analyze and understand a lot more factors than they have in the past, and a lot of those factors are just not predictable," Good said.

Good added he sees no sign of the corn market stabilizing anytime soon, and that the unstable global economy has also been a factor.

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