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MADISON – The first national survey of crop planting intentions by farmers for 2017 indicates the likelihood of an increase of 7 percent in soybean acreage and a decrease of 4 percent in corn acreage.

Those changes are based on sampling of more than 84,000 farm operators, including 1,900 in Wisconsin, according to the report issued on March 31 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and its Wisconsin field office.

If the forecast is realized, corn would be planted on 89.996 million acres this year compared to 94.004 million in 2016. Soybean acres would jump to 89.482 million from 83.433 million in 2016.

Wisconsin statistics

In Wisconsin, the survey predicts the planted acres of soybeans would be up to a record high of 2.15 million compared to 1.98 million in 2016. In part because of the prospects on the economics, the Extension Service's soybean specialist Shawn Conley expects that the state's soybean acreage could hit 2.25 million this year.

Based on the survey, Wisconsin's corn acreage would slip by 50,000 from last year to a total of 4 million this year. That would be the same as the state's planted corn acres in 2015.

Local perspectives

From a local perspective, grain merchandiser Brad Jaeger of the Country Visions Cooperative site near Chilton in Calumet County is aware that a few customers are considering more soybeans this year. But it's not easy to get a good handle on any acreage trend changes, in part because the futures prices of soybeans have been dropping during the past month, he notes.

What's more significant in the local area is the cutback by canning crop processors on acreage contracts for this year, Jaeger points out. That'll free more acres for growing of corn that large area dairies buy for silage, he adds.

In general, Jaeger expects area farmers to stay fairly close to their normal crop rotations in choosing between corn, soybeans, and other crops. Whatever the price happens to be, nearly all farmers believe that they need to be growing some corn, he observes.

At Poplar Farms Sales and Service, which has most of its customers in Manitowoc County along with a few in Brown and Calumet counties, owner Bill Brunner doesn't detect much change in acreage plans by dairy farmers and cash crop growers who follow their planned crop rotations. He notes that seed sales are steady to up slightly.

Brunner cited the possibility of the loss of some alfalfa stands because of the winter and early spring weather. In those cases, he expects little more than a switch in acres – corn to follow a lost alfalfa and a new seeding of alfalfa on acres once intended for corn this year.

Other crop outlooks

Among other major national crops, the prospective planting survey suggest a 5 percent cutback for oats to a national total of 2.699 million acres. In Wisconsin, oats plantings are projected at 210,000 acres – the same as in 2016 but down from 280,000 in 2015.

Harvest is anticipated on 52.811 million acres of hay in the United States. That's down by 650,000 acres from 2016. In Wisconsin, the hay acres are forecast at 1.3 million – down by 30,000 from 2016.

Winter wheat acres have dropped by 9 percent in the United States to a total of 32.474 million for harvest this summer. In Wisconsin, the 220,000 acres of winter wheat is a drop of 50,000 from 2016 and of 10,000 from 2015.

Grain stocks higher

With the 2017 planting season on the horizon, an accompanying NASS report indicates plentiful supplies of the major grain commodities as of March 1. The only decrease compared to a year ago is for oats.

Compared to March 1 of 2016, this year's stored stocks of corn were up by 10 percent to more than 8.616 billion bushels. Wisconsin's total of on and off-farm storage of corn was up by 15 percent to 347.612 million bushels – the most ever recorded for that date.

Across the country, soybean stocks were up by 13 percent on March 1 to nearly 1.735 billion bushels. Wisconsin's total had jumped by 41 percent to 54.442 million bushels – also a record high for March 1. Part of the reason was that the disappearance of the state's soybean stocks for the December 2016 to February 2017 period was only 12.5 million bushels compared to 24.9 million a year earlier.

Wheat stocks in the United States were up by 21 percent from a year ago to more than 1.655 billion bushels on March 1. In Wisconsin, the off-farm total was up by 15 percent to 33.837 million bushels. In order to avoid disclosing data for individual operations, no on-farm number was reported for the state.

Oats stocks in the United States were down by 16 percent to 63.158 million bushels on March 1. Wisconsin's share was 2.3 million bushels in on-farm storage (down by 36 percent) but no number was reported for off-farm storage so as not to disclose data for individual operations.

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