Farmers eye more soybeans, less corn for 2017

Producer survey shows markets are encouraging acreage shifts for 2017.

Strong demand and profitable hedging opportunities on this year’s crop may convince farmers to boost their soybean acreage again next year, according to Farm Futures' first survey of 2017 planting intentions.

Results of the annual survey are released on the opening day of Penton Agriculture's 2016 Farm Progress Show, the nation's largest outdoor farm show, held near Boone, Iowa Aug. 20-Sept. 1. Farm Futures, a sister publication to Feedstuffs, is the farm business and marketing information resource for large-scale agricultural producers.

Record soybean acres indicated

Growers said they are considering devoting a record 84.4 million acres to soybeans, up almost 1% from 2016. At the same time, however, they plan to put in less corn and wheat. Although farmers have shown a preference for corn historically, red ink may trim plantings to only 93.1 million acres next spring. That would be roughly 1 million acres less than in 2016, when farmers boosted corn plantings by 7%.

Other crop shifts

Wheat seedings could be lower for the fourth consecutive year in a market beset by low prices. Producers said they plan to plant 49.1 million acres, down 3.4% and the lowest total since 1970.

Most of the cutback would come in hard red winter wheat sown on the central and southern Plains, which had very good yields in 2016 and very weak cash prices as a result. Hard red winter wheat seedings could fall by nearly 1.4 million acres to 25.1 million. Soft red winter wheat could also be down, dropping 2.7% to 6.4 million acres, but growers in the Pacific Northwest could be ready to boost white wheat planting modestly, if conditions allow.

In the northern Plains, spring wheat ground could fall nearly 2% to 11.9 million acres, with durum down slightly after an increase in 2016.

Two other crops besides soybeans could pull a little acreage away from wheat and corn. Growers said they want to boost cotton plantings by about 0.5% to 10.1 million acres. Sorghum ground could also gain less than 1% to 7.3 million acres.

The survey queried 1,225 growers from around the U.S. about their plans during late July and early August. Producers were invited by email to fill out an online entry form.

With the harvest of 2016 crops barely underway, much obviously could change by the time planters start rolling, Farm Futures grain market analyst Bryce Knorr pointed out.

“Farmers show a tendency to base planting decisions on what worked the previous year, and soybeans were profitable for growers able to take advantage of hedging opportunities this summer,” said Knorr, who has conducted surveys for the magazine since 1988. “Strong buying from China also provides a much better fundamental underpinning for the market compared to corn and wheat, which lack demand drivers.”

Knorr said the ratio of new-crop soybean to corn futures favors soybeans, although prices for both crops are well below breakeven levels.

“Another factor to watch is moisture for seeding winter wheat,” he continued. “Above-average rainfall is forecasted over the central Plains into September, which could convince more farmers to plant wheat, hoping to double-crop soybeans behind it.”

2017 Farm Futures Crop Planting Intentions, Projected Acres
2016 July/August Survey Results by Crop:

Crop


Acreage
 

Change vs.
USDA
August
2016
estimates:
%, (1,000 acres)

Corn

93.1 million

-1.1%, -1,059

Soybeans

84.4 million

0.9%, 760

Soft Red Winter Wheat

6.4 million

-2.7%, -180

Hard Red Winter Wheat

25.1 million

-5.2%, -1,368

White Winter Wheat

3.5 million

2.3%, 78

All Winter Wheat

35 million

-4.1%, -1,508

Spring Wheat

11.9 million

-1.9%, -225

Durum

2.1 million

-0.1%, -2

All Wheat

49.1 million

-3.4%, -1,735

Sorghum

7.3 million

0.8%, 59

Cotton

10.1 million

+0.5%, 50

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