USDA’s estimate for corn exports is “really interesting,” Anderson says — going from about 700 million bushels last year to nearly double that in this marketing year. That’s a big jump; in historic terms, it’s a huge change. The question: Is it realistic that we’ll see that big a change in exports in a year’s time?

“Certainly, that number can change fast. But, we have to consider that while U.S. supply has been tight, other countries have stepped in and have been meeting export market needs. Can we get that much share back from them in a year’s time? Historically, it’s not a huge level of exports, and it’s probably doable — but we’d have to be pretty aggressive to do it.

The bottom line for corn: If we get to a 14.6 percent stocks-to-use number at the end of the marketing year, that’s going to put more pressure on prices than we’ve seen in the last two or three years. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that level of carryover  — nearly a doubling of where we were a year ago — and I think USDA’s pretty much in the ballpark with their $4.50 market year average price estimate.”

The overriding question with the corn outlook, Anderson says, is, “Do these numbers seem realistic? Can we see feed numbers and export numbers increase that much from last year to this year? Historically, going back to the mid-1970s, there have been only two other times when we had that big an increase in year-over-year corn use.

“Can the market really do that? Can it support that big an increase in corn use in a year’s time? Looking at the charts, it seems unrealistic. We’re talking about a pretty heavy lift for the market to move use that much.”

But, he says, reducing numbers for some of the use categories “would give us an even bigger carryover than is being projected. There is only one other time we’ve seen as big a percentage change in carryover as we’re calling for this year.

“We’re pretty much in a situation that either we’re going to see a really big run-up in corn use to take some of this big crop off the market, or we’re going to see an unprecedentedly big increase in carryover.

“Looking at USDA’s balance sheets, I think they’re saying we’ll have a historically big increase in corn use and a historically big increase in carryover. But changing either number much would put us in uncharted territory in terms of increase in total use or carryover. We’re starting with a pretty low level of carryover, so it’s hard for me to see carryover change much more.”

The market, Anderson says, “obviously is taking note of all this. If we look at the Dec. 13 corn contract or the Sept. 2014 contract, a lot of the really strong support we’ve had for price the last two years has eased. That doesn’t mean we’re going to go back to loan rate corn, but there’s still a pretty big difference between $7.50 corn and $4.50 corn.”

Of the three global food grains — corn, wheat, and rice — held by major exporters, “Corn stocks are expected to be at highest level in a long time,” Anderson says. “The same is true for milled rice. Wheat is the one crop that has tightened up in the last few years.

“Compared to three years ago, it has tightened quite a bit, and that’s something to keep an eye on in terms of factors that can support the market. We’re not to the point anyone is panicking about wheat availability, but were we to have one more short crop in a major producing country, we could see the wheat market start to get excited in a fairly short time.

“On the other hand, if there are no production disruptions, I think wheat stocks will grow fairly rapidly over the next year or two. But because we don’t have huge wheat stocks, we do need to watch it as a source of potential price support.”