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Farmers expect to plant record corn, fewer soybean acres this year

George C. Ford, CR Gazette –

Farmers are expected to plant a record corn crop and fewer soybean acres this year than they did in 2011, according to projections reported Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corn growers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn for all purposes this spring, up 4 percent from last year and 9 percent higher than in 2010.

If realized, it will represent the highest planted corn acreage in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.

Record corn acreage is expected in Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, while acreage is projected to decrease in the central and southern Great Plains, which experienced severe drought and above normal temperatures in 2011.

Soybean producers intend to plan 73.9 million acres this year, down 1 percent from 2011 and 5 percent lower than 2010. Compared with 2011, planted acreage is down or unchanged across the Corn Belt and Great Plains with the exception of Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Compared with last year, planted soybean acreage intentions are down in many areas as some acreage is expected to shift to corn. Soybean acreage intentions in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are down from 2011 due to drought conditions that have continued from last year into early March.

Iowa corn farmers are expected to plant 14.6 million acres of corn this year, up 4 percent from 14.1 million acres in 2011 and nearly 9 percent higher than 13.4 million acres in 2010.

Iowa soybean producers are projected to plant 8.8 million acres of soybeans in 2012, down 6 percent from 9.36 million acres last year and 10.2 percent below 9.8 million acres of bean planted in 2010.

Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, said farmers are looking at their upfront costs and potential return on investment.

“The producer is planting corn for the profitability at the expenses of soybeans,” Roose said. “I think with the high input costs, the producers say ‘If we’re going to pay this much for rent, we have to plant the crop that will give us the highest return.’”

Roose said corn stocks are the tightest since 1995-1996, which caused the price for corn to surge Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade.

The USDA on Friday said corn stored on the farm and in elevators totaled 6.01 billion bushels on March 1, down 8 percent from March 1, 2011, or the lowest for this time of the year since 2004. Of the total stocks, 3.19 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 6 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 2.82 billion bushels, are down 10 percent from a year ago.

The USDA’s estimate of corn consumption between Dec. 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012, unexpectedly rose 3.1 percent to a record 3.64 billion bushels. That figure includes use in food, livestock feed and fuel, along with exports and waste.

Corn prices surged the most in 21 months on the Chicago Board of Trade, which could translate into higher food prices. Corn futures for May delivery jumped by the exchange limit of 40, or 6.6 percent, to close at $6.44 a bushel, marking the biggest gain for a most-active contract since June 30, 2010.

The exact opposite was the case for soybean stocks.

Soybeans stored on the farm and in elevators totaled 1.37 billion bushels on March 1, up 10 percent from March 1, 2011. Soybean stocks stored on farms are estimated at 555 million bushels, up 10 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 817 million bushels, are up 10 percent from last March.

Between Dec. 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012, soybean consumption totaled 998 million bushels, down 3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The USDA estimates for corn and soybean planting are based primarily on a survey conducted during the first two weeks of March. The survey includes a sample of over 84,500 farm operators — including nearly 2,000 Iowa producers — selected from a list of farmers that ensures all operations in the United States have a chance to be selected.

Farmers were contacted by mail, Internet, phone, or personal interview to obtain information on crop acreage planned for the 2012 crop year.

Roose said the June 1 USDA report will provide a more accurate picture of crop planting. The government does not plan to release any revisions to Friday’s report.

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