U.S. corn growers expect to plant 93.6 million acres to corn this year, according to the “Prospective Plantings” report released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This is the first increase in corn planted acreage since 2012 and, if realized, will be the third-largest corn acreage since 1944.
“While an increase in corn acreage had been expected, most estimates were near 90 million acres,” said Bob Burgdorfer, senior editor at Farm Futures.
Driven by expectations for higher returns in 2016 compared with other crops, corn growers in 41 of the 48 contiguous states expect to either maintain or increase the number of acres they plant to corn.
Growers in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and North Dakota expect to increase their corn area by 400,000 acres or more in 2016.
In contrast, U.S. soybean growers expect to reverse the recent trends, which saw several years of record-high acreage. In 2016, growers expect to plant 82.2 million acres to soybeans, a decrease of less than 1% from 2015. Growers in Louisiana, Minnesota and Mississippi expect to decrease their soybean acreage by 200,000 acres or more in 2016. Despite the national decrease in acreage, however, growers in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin expect to see record-high soybean acreages in their states.
The “Prospective Plantings” report provides the first official, survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2016 planting intentions. NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of more than 84,000 farm operators across the U.S.
“More corn acres and fewer soybeans had been expected as farmers shifted away from soybeans after back-to-back record yields,” Burgdorfer said.
Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst, said the news brought the March market rally to an abrupt end. “Rallies now depend on growing-season weather, which will take a while to play out,” he said.
Chicago, Ill., corn futures traded about 14 cents lower near midday on Thursday, while soybean futures were about unchanged. While the soybean acres were close to those found in a recent Farm Futures survey, large old-crop supplies will limit the rally potential “until growing-season weather becomes an issue,” Knorr said.
“The real surprise is again corn. Our farmer survey showed growers not planting some ground due to low profit potential, but the government found growers willing to roll the dice, despite corn’s higher production cost,” Knorr added.
Wheat futures held onto modest gains, with the largest gains being for spring wheat. USDA put spring wheat acres at 11.3 million, down 14% from 2015, and durum acres at 2 million, up 3%.
“Wheat (prices) will get a little support from the cut in spring wheat seedings, but it will be hard to rally prices much without growing-season troubles around the world," Knorr said. Still, "the market is doing its job, pushing some ground out of production and forcing growers out of the least-profitable crops.”
More corn acres had been expected as the crop appeared to offer better returns than soybeans, helped by lower fuel and fertilizer prices. At its annual outlook forum in February, USDA had forecasted 90 million acres of corn, 82.5 million acres of soybeans and 51 million total acres of wheat.
The grain stocks reports released by USDA Thursday were above year-ago levels for corn, soybeans and wheat due partly to a slowdown in exports for the three crops. The numbers were close to trade forecasts.
Corn stocks as of March 1 were nearly 7.81 billion bu. versus 7.75 billion bu. in 2015, soybeans were at 1.53 billion bu. versus 1.33 billion bu. in 2015 and wheat was at 1.37 billion bu. versus 1.14 billion bu. in 2015.