Costs of producing soybeans in the United States rise as returns fluctuate over time
Errata: On July 28, 2021, the text was revised to correct an error that occurred in data transmission. The chart was not affected by the error.
The total cost of producing one acre of soybeans in the United States increased by 14 percent between 2012 and 2020. At the same time, grower revenue—the returns a grower receives from producing an acre of soybeans—decreased by 14 percent. Returns, which equal the price of soybeans multiplied by the yield, fell from $597 an acre in 2012 to $431 in 2015. In 2016, returns rose to $492 before falling to $429 in 2019. In 2020, returns rebounded to $515 an acre, the highest level since 2014. Grower returns are closely associated with soybean prices, which fluctuated between 2012 and 2020. Prices peaked at $14.21 per bushel in 2012 before dropping to $8.61 per bushel in 2018 and 2019, even as yields per acre trended higher. Total costs—which include operating costs such as seed, fertilizer, and chemicals, as well as allocated overhead costs such as labor and capital recovery of machinery and equipment—grew from $438 to $500 between 2012 to 2020. Largely because of an increase in soybean prices, soybean returns in 2020 exceeded costs for the first time in three years. Costs for most aspects of soybean production increased from 2012 to 2020. The biggest cost increases were for capital recovery of machinery and equipment, as well as for the opportunity cost of land—a category that reflects income that might have been earned from renting out the land. This chart is drawn from USDA, Economic Research Service's (ERS) Oil Crops Outlook, June 2021, and is based on data collected from the ERS Commodity Costs and Returns data product.
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