USDA puts its official stamp on the growing season next week with the release of its March 31st planting intentions report ... and its first official crop progress report on April 4.
The crop reports coming out of the southern hemisphere lately have been unwelcome. That's because dry weather has devastated much of Brazil's primary cash crop, soybeans.
Worst hit by the drought is Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state and the country's largest producer of soybeans. Officials now predict that two-thirds of the soybean harvest -- some 6.72 million tons -- has been destroyed in Rio Grande do Sul alone.
Nationwide, the latest government projections for this year's harvest are 9 percent less than the initial predictions made in December.
Soybean futures prices, meanwhile, continued a slide that began last week. Analysts believe prices that were driven higher in early March by non-commercial, or speculative, buying have begun to return to the fundamentals. Among those factors: a still plentiful U.S. soybean supply, ocean freight rates, Chinese demand, and the progress of the harvest in northern Brazil, which at last count was 32 percent complete.