Corn prices fall as USDA report forecasts more corn acres
A crop report issued March 28 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Department showed that farmers are preparing to plant 97.3 million acres of corn, one of the largest crops in history.
If it holds, the predicted acreage would be the most since 1936, when 102 million acres were planted, but it is only up slightly from the 97.2 million acres planted last year.
The report indicated that in states where farmers were hit hardest by the 2012 drought, planned corn acreage shrank. In southern states where cotton is grown, farmers said they were more likely to plant corn instead.
In some states the acreage shift is substantial from cotton to corn as farmers bank on sufficient rain to produce a corn crop.
In Wisconsin, the prospective planting report found that as of March 1, state farmers intend to plant 4.35 million acres of corn, which includes silage corn and corn for grain.
If realized that would tie as the third largest planted acreage on record - behind 4.52 million acres in 1981 and 4.4 million acres in 1982.
Some states are headed for record corn acreage. Minnesota's planting intentions were up 3 percent to 9 million acres, which would be a new record.
Farmers in the leading corn state of Iowa plan to put in about 14.2 million acres of corn, which is the same number of acres as last year.
Other states where farmers' plans would result in record corn acreage include Idaho, North Dakota and Oregon.
Nationally, farmers said that they plan to plant 77.1 million acres of soybeans, which is slightly lower that 77.2 million acres last year. Officials at USDA said if realized that would still make this year's soybean acreage the fourth largest on record.
Wisconsin farmers plan to plant 1.7 million acres, down slightly from last year's 1.71 million acres.
Though the forecast is in line with what industry analysts had predicted, corn prices fell after the USDA reports were released and continued to fall since then. In a separate report also released on Thursday, the agency reported that corn stocks were 7 percent higher than had previously been projected.
That led to the price drop.
"The forecast gives us an indication of what farmers intend to plant as of early March," said American Farm Bureau's crop economist Todd Davis, "but between now and fall harvest the influence of still-dry soils, volatile commodity prices and weather uncertainty will play out, which may change what farmers plant."
Matching up the trend yield line for corn production per acre - 163.54 bushels - and the number of prospective acres planted could result in a harvest of 14.6 billion bushels.
With a similar calculation for soybeans, at a yield projection of 44.4 bushels per acre, this year could produce a record crop of 3.38 billion bushels, Davis noted.
"If these early planting and yield projections are realized, corn and soybeans stocks will increase, which would ultimately lead to lower feed costs for livestock and poultry farmers," Davis said.
As of March 1, Wisconsin farmers said they planned to harvest 1.38 million acres of hay in 2013. If realized, that would be 70,000 acres below the record low acreage harvested in 2012.
In its grain stocks report also issued March 28, the USDA said the nation's corn inventory was 5.4 billion bushels, down 10 percent from a year earlier.
Of the total stocks 2.67 billion bushels was reportedly stored on farms, down 16 percent from last year. Off-farm stocks were pegged at 2.73 billion bushels, down 4 percent from a year ago.
Nationally, soybean stocks were reported at 999 million bushels, down 27 percent from the same point last year.
Wisconsin corn stocks totaled 227 million bushels as of March 1, down 24 percent from the 298 million bushels that were in storage a year ago.
On-farm storage accounted for 129 million bushels of corn in last week's report, down 33 percent from a year ago; off-farm stocks came in at 107 million bushels, down 9 percent from last year's number.
Wisconsin's soybean stocks mirrored the national report with 26.3 million bushels, which was down 40 percent from the state's 2012 level. On-farm stocks were 11 million bushels, down 35 percent from year-earlier levels.
The report noted that on-farm stocks in Wisconsin represented 42 percent of total stocks.
After last year's drought in many regions of the country, rainfall is on farmers' minds and they are looking with keen interest at long-range weather predictions.
"The drought is forecast to ease in the Western Corn Belt but will persist in Nebraska and Kansas, intensifying in Texas and Oklahoma," said Davis. "However, just because the drought may be easing doesn't guarantee record crop yields in those areas."