EPA Renewable Fuels Standard Rallies Soybean Oil Prices

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EPA Renewable Fuels Standard Rallies Soybean Oil Prices
Source | Darrel Good, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The price of soybeans rallied about 10 percent from mid-October to mid-November. It came, as Todd Gleason reports, despite the record sized crop harvested in the United States.

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Farmers have been in awe of the soybean market since mid-August. There have been a few reasons for it to rally; a short crop out of South America and a drought constrained supply of palm oil coming from Indonesia for instance. Still, this U.S. soybean crop is big, mighty big in fact. Yet, the price of soybeans has gone higher.

Darrel Good writes about it in this week’s Weekly Outlook. You may read it online at FarmDocDaily.

There are two unusual things about this price rally. Well, one really, but it is driven by the first. The rally has come because the world seems to be short of vegetable oils. Soybean oil is among those. Here’s the important part, soybean oil lead rallies generally do not last. Darrel Good thinks this one might and that it could change the dynamics of the soybean complex. The change is driven by the Renewable Fuels Standard. The RFS did the same thing for the corn market when it began to ramp up ethanol production in the United States more than a decade ago.

The soy complex is made up of three parts; the price of soybeans, the price of soybean meal, and the price of soybean oil. The last two are the products derived from the soybean when it is processed, crushed.

The EPA RFS announcement, made last week, initially resulted in a surge in soybean oil and soybean prices. Increasing soybean oil consumption for mandated advanced biofuels, in this case biodiesel production, this year and beyond may require the domestic soybean crush to be larger than previously thought concludes Darrel Good. He says this could lead to some long-term pricing questions.

Historically, the domestic crush has been driven by soybean meal demand. If it is driven instead by soybean oil demand, this could result in lower soybean meal prices. Soybean meal has a short shelf life. Its price would need to be low enough to for it to be used quickly.

The impact of higher soybean oil prices and lower soybean meal prices on the price of soybeans is difficult to anticipate. However, a “surplus” of soybean meal, says Good, might result in lower soybean meal prices relative to feed grain prices. It could cause the soybean meal to corn price ratio that has ranged from 2.55 to 3.2 in recent years to decline. The historical range is 2.0 to 2.5.