For farmers who are in grain, oil, energy and hay production, the CattleFax session at NCBA National Convention in Orlando may have had the answers to your questions.

George abby
Editor / Progressive Cattle


Corn was a big topic of conversation, and while more information will come with the prospective plantings report in March, here are the main points as presented by CattleFax.

  • The USDA Annual Crop Production report estimated 2023 corn-planted acres at 94.6 million with 91.4% of acres harvested. Corn yield was up about 2.2% at 177.3 bushels per acre, placing production 12% higher at 15.3 billion bushels.
  • Exports are expected to increase in 2024 following the sharp rise in production and softer prices with Mexico serving as the largest importer of U.S. corn. Improved demand from increased ethanol production is expected in the coming years, while feed and residual tend to be more correlated to production.
  • Current corn stocks-to-use at just under 15% should keep the market below $5.75 bushels per acre, with a yearly average price of $5.25 bushels per acre expected.
  • An expected decline in production from reduction in acres and yield below trend line in the new crop year should be offset by larger beginning stocks. Stocks-to-use have the potential to be above 16%. This would imply a lower price range of $4 to $5 bushels per acre through the second half of 2024.

Overall, in 2023, there was an increase in acres of corn planted and record-high yield. Demand was slightly increased but not enough to offset production, leaving stocks-to-use in a comfortable position going into 2024.

The weather, particularly how dry it will be, is going to be the big indicator of the amount of corn planted this spring, but it is predicted there will be a decrease of some kind.

“Additionally, as we head into July, we'll be paying attention to yield,” says Troy Bockelmann, CattleFax director of grains, protein and global trade. “If you look at the last five years, we've seen yield run about 2.5 percent below the long-term trend. The five years prior to that, you had yield run about 3.5 percent above that long-term trend. Given the weather forecasts, we're not calling for a trend line yield.”


It’s predicted for a 100 million bushel increase in corn being exported. That will be roughly the sixth-biggest export number in history, even as China continues to produce and export their own corn rather than purchasing.

Ethanol also plays into corn price. There was record ethanol production in 2017, it decreased in 2020 and is expected to increase a little bit in 2024, depending on demand and corn production.


The other main grain is soybeans. Soybeans are being crushed at a record high and being used for renewable diesel, lowering U.S. exports of the crop. Even with Brazil’s large soybean crop, the stocks-to-use ratio is relatively tight. The March Prospective Plantings report will predict more on this with the predicted corn and soybean acres to be planted. Additionally, watching what happens to Brazil’s crop as La Nina makes her way back will help to predict what the prices do through the rest of the year.


Wheat is a lot more of a global commodity compared to corn. Where the U.S. produces about 30% of the world's corn, the U.S. only produced about 7% of the world's wheat. Currently, the U.S. had 2 million fewer winter wheat acres this year, and spring wheat is expected to be relatively flat. However, while Ukraine and Russia continue to be at war, two of the largest wheat producers, they also continue to export wheat, keeping the global supply in a comfortable position.

Oil and energy

The U.S is producing record amounts of oil, with global consumption and production of oil about in equilibrium.

So what's the expectation for 2024?

“Ultimately, not much is going to change,” Bockelmann says. “We expect to see the average for crude oil at around 80 dollars per barrel in 2024. In 2023, we averaged about 78 dollars a barrel. Retail diesel averaged about 4 dollars and 43 cents per gallon, and our forecast average for 2024 is right around 4 dollars and 30 cents per gallon.”

Oil tends to be much more political than the rest of the commodities.

“We need to pay attention to the global dynamics, especially when we're talking about OPEC and OPEC+, as they could increase or decrease supply on a moment's notice,” Bockelmann says. “It's not so much the supply and demand as it is the geopolitics that we would see relative to those oil markets.”

OPEC+ is expected to continue their conservative production schedule, particularly in the first half of 2024, placing emphasis of profit per barrel, CattleFax reports. The U.S. will remain the world’s top oil producer.


2022 had the smallest stocks and production of hay since the 1950s, and the prices showed that. 2023 saw a 6.3% increase in hay production to 118.8 million tons, and we could expect to see another increase in hay production in 2024.

“As a result, you could see the hay market pushed a little higher in the spring along with the corn market, but, ultimately, average about 30 dollars per ton below year-ago levels following harvest,” Bockelmann says.

Another year of good hay production needs to happen to help recover the low stock of 2022 and return prices to a more historically normal range. The national Dec. 1 on-farm stocks were up 6.9% from a year ago at 76.7 million tons, CattleFax reports. 

Watch items for 2024

The biggest watch item for 2024 is going to be the Prospective Plantings report coming out in March. Do we see an increase in soybean acres and a decrease in corn acres? And depending on what the decrease in corn acres is, think about increasing your risk management on it. Watch the transition into La Nina and what the Brazilian soybean crop will look like. Additionally, watch the exports coming from China because that can have an impact on the corn market.

“The margins that farmers had the last couple of years are going to be a lot tighter this year,” Bockelmann says. “Overall, the grain market on the input side is in a relatively comfortable position. We are still expecting these gray markets to have a rally into the spring, and that rally could take corn back up a bit. But by the time we get into harvest, we would expect to see corn prices back there closer to 4 dollars.”