Farming intentions: Crop acreage will be smaller than expected in ’09

COLUMBUS — Corn acreage in the United States is down and soybean acreage is up for 2009, according to the USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report. But the shift is not as great as the markets expected.

Matt Roberts, an Ohio State University Extension economist, said that high fertilizer prices, high input costs for corn, and poor fall weather for western Corn Belt states didn’t have much impact on farmers’ decisions to take large acres of corn out of production.

“The thing that is most striking is that all of the reasons that a lot of people were thinking that would drive a large reduction in corn acres really haven’t had a lot of impact,” said Roberts, an associate professor of agricultural economics.

“There are many areas of the U.S. that are still favoring corn profitability.”

Overall picture

The USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, released March 31, indicates that U.S. producers intend to plant less acreage in 2009 than in 2008; based on current estimates, the United States will see a reduction of around 7.8 million acres from last year.

Including acreage of hay intended for harvest, the decline is about 7.6 million.

Declines total 4.5 million for wheat, 1.3 million for sorghum, nearly 1 million for corn, 658,000 for cotton, 446,000 for sunflowers, 410,000 for peanuts, and 154,000 for canola.

Corn cuts

According to the report, corn growers intend to plant 85 million acres of corn, down 1 percent from last year.

If realized, this would be the second consecutive year-over-year decrease since 2007, but will still be the third largest acreage since 1949, behind 2007 and 2008.

Ohio is among 10 corn-producing states, however, that collectively intend to plant 66.3 million acres, up slightly from the 66.1 million acres planted last year.

The largest changes in acreage are planned in Missouri (up 250,000) and North Dakota (down 250,000). In addition, Illinois producers intend to increase corn acreage by 100,000 acres, while producers in Iowa intend to reduce acreage by the same amount, said Good.

Ohio is among a handful of states where farmers intend to plant more corn and soybeans than last year.

The long-term trend yield of 152.8 bushels per acre, then, points to a 2009 harvest of 11.862 billion bushels, 239 million smaller than the 2008 harvest.

“A crop of that size would likely result in a sharp decline in stocks by the end of the 2009-10 marketing year as both exports and ethanol use of corn are expected to increase during the year ahead,” said Good.

Soybeans

U.S. soybean producers intend to plant 76 million acres, up more than 300,000 acres over last year. If realized, the acreage would be the largest on record.

Intended acreage is below actual plantings in 2008 by 150,000 acres in Missouri and South Dakota, 100,000 acres in Illinois, and 50,000 acres in Indiana, Louisiana, and Minnesota.

The largest increase — 200,000 acres — is planned in Kansas, with increases of 100,000 planned in Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohio.

Good said the long-term trend yield of 41.6 bushels per acre points to a 2009 harvest of 3.12 billion bushels, 160 million larger than the 2008 harvest.

“A crop of that size would likely lead to a small increase in stocks by the end of the 2009-10 marketing year,” he said.

Wheat

All wheat planted is estimated at 58.6 million acres, down 7 percent from last year. Good said 75 percent of the acreage reduction is for winter wheat, even though seedings of that crop are 791,000 acres larger than reported in January.

The 2009 winter wheat planted area, at 42.9 million acres, is 7 percent below last year but up 2 percent from the previous estimate.

Intended acreage of spring wheat, including durum, is estimated at 15.749 million, 1.117 million less than seeded in 2008.

Market reaction

Darrel Good, a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist, predicted markets would show a modest response to the reports.

Good said the reports were “friendly” and “supportive” for corn, soybean and wheat prices, but the market will also begin to anticipate how actual plantings may differ from intentions.

“In addition, financial, currency, and energy markets will continue to have an influence on crop prices as those markets influence overall demand prospects,” Good said.

Where’s the acreage?

“The big question is, where is all of that acreage going?” said Roberts.

“Cotton production is reported to be down. Maybe those high input costs are driving some acres back to pasture, which is not a bad thing. This report doesn’t give us the details we need to be able to figure that out at this time.”

The USDA acreage report will be released June 30. At that time, analysts should have a better handle on the outlook of acreage planted.

For a copy of the USDA Prospective Plantings Report, log on to www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/index.asp.

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