Corn and soybean prices have declined sharply since the release of the USDA’s November Crop Production  report that contained smaller forecasts of the size of the 2011 harvest for both crops.

In addition, the historically strong corn basis has begun to weaken in many markets, said University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

“The recent price behavior suggests the market believes the combination of very high prices in the late summer and early fall and weaker demand prospects have been sufficient to ration the relatively small crops,” Good said.

Weaker export demand prospects stem from a combination of increased competition from other exporters and concerns about world economic and financial conditions. For corn, the competition is from the large corn and wheat crops in 2011 whereas soybean export demand is being influenced by prospects of another large South American harvest in 2012.

“While world financial conditions are deteriorating, the impact on world grain consumption may be overstated. The record large exports of U.S. pork and beef in the face of record high prices provide evidence that world demand for food remains very strong. Foreign crop production prospects will dominate the outlook for U.S. crop exports,” he added.

Domestic demand prospects for corn remain mixed. “Current demand is very strong as ethanol production continues to exceed the pace of a year ago and record hog and cattle prices, along with large feedlot inventories of cattle, support feed demand. Reduced broiler production, prospects for fewer cattle on feed in 2012, and the upcoming expiration of the blender tax credit for ethanol may point to weaker domestic demand in 2012,” Good said.

For soybeans, the pace of the domestic crush was very slow in the first two months of the marketing year, reflecting a slower pace of meal and oil exports.