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World's biggest soybean grower may not meet demand

Soybeans in a field outside Tiskilwa, Ill.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Soybeans in a field outside Tiskilwa, Ill.

Inventories of soybeans in the U.S. fell to their lowest level in a decade, according to figures released Monday by the United States Department of Agriculture. That decline has one commodity analyst worried whether the U.S. will produce enough of the crop to meet the growing global demand.

"The U.S. is not really in a strong position to meet the needs of soybean users, and we could fall behind," said Darin Newsom, senior analyst for farming data and information site DTN/The Progressive Farmer.

The 992 million bushels of soybean inventories cited by the USDA is actually higher than the 989 million bushels projected. But Newsom said the increase is mostly irrelevant as America's corn crop keeps pushing soybeans to the back burner when it comes to production.

After Monday's release of the crop reports, soybean futures climbed to their highest price in more than nine months. Corn futures extended a bull-market rally.

Read MoreFarming in America: 'There's a growing discontent'

American farmers will increase soybean production this year. The USDA said producers intend to plant an estimated 81.5 million acres of soybeans in 2014, up 6 percent from last year and an all-time record high. But that may not be enough, said Newsom.

"We'll meet enough soybean demand this year, but looking forward, it could be a problem," Newsom added. "It's not clear our production is meeting global soybean demand. That needs to change."

Soybeans are used for a variety of purposes, including food for humans, cooking oil, feed for livestock and fuel energy. The U.S. is the largest producer and exporter of soybeans. China, the European Union and Mexico are the top three soybean importers.

Corn seen lower, but still at historic levels

As for corn, the USDA said on Monday that the number of acres projected for planting this year will put the crop at its lowest level since 2010.

Planting intentions for the 2014 corn crop were released at 91.7 million acres, down 4 percent from last year and more than 1 million fewer acres than expected.

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If that happens—and those are projections by farmers themselves—the USDA says it would represent the lowest planted acreage in the United States in five years. But it would still be the fifth largest U.S. corn acreage since 1944.

Analysts had been expecting corn planting intentions of 92.748 million acres, with a range of estimates between 90.5 million and 94 million. Last year's planted acreage for corn was 95.365 million acres.

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