Farmers and analysts alike are looking ahead to June 30, when the USDA releases its highly anticipated acreage report.
But some are already thinking that rainy weather could make that report outdated as soon as it comes out.
In his latest report, Christopher Narayanan, head of agricultural commodities research at Societe Generale in New York, highlights several caveats to this year’s report.
“It bears to remember that this acreage is the sum of both acres planted and acres intended to be planted,” he writes, highlighting that USDA will be basing those June 30 numbers on the data it collects in the first half of June. “While those estimates provide crucial data to help gauge the ultimate levels of crop production, given the nature of the sampling period, some acreage can be ‘lost’ if conditions threaten those acres that remain unplanted.”
And conditions are definitely threatening those unplanted acres.
A farmer in Pike County, Mo., told AgWeb on June 16 that he has seen rain daily since May 10. “We’ve had over 30 inches in our area since it started in our area, with Tropical Storm Bill expected to add 5 to 7 inches more,” he writes. “Needless to say, (it’s a) major disaster on all crops planted with lots left to plant. Weeds taking over, even with pre’s down.”
In Texas, where Tropical Storm Bill has dropped more than a foot of rain, the wet weather is defeating even veteran growers. “Cotton was never planted,” a farmer in Nueces County said on June 16. “We took prevented planting, the first time for us in over 60 years of farming, and planted late sorghum. Come and see the blank fields.”
Even the I-States are shaking their heads at the wet fields and wetter forecasts as they wonder how this growing season will turn out. “Still a lot of bean acres to be planted,” said a farmer in St. Clair County, Ill. “Yet the USDA is still saying everything is perfect everywhere. Kind of makes you wonder what kind of idiots work there.”
With so much water in so many fields, Narayanan says he wouldn’t be surprised to see a bigger than expected gap between planted and harvested acreage this year in key commodity crops.
Here’s what he expects:
- Corn: 88.9 million planted acres, as farmers shift to lower-cost crops such as soybeans and sorghum, and lower production due to “lost acres” from heavy rains and standing water in June.
- Soybeans: 84.6 million planted acres, which is lower than many might have predicted earlier this spring. Narayanan’s reasoning? Wet weather and delayed planting, which is leaving growers in many states perilously close to insurance planting deadlines. “While we are currently in-line with the USDA’s Prospective Plantings soybean acreage estimate, we assume a higher abandonment rate and lower harvested acreage,” explains Narayanan, who estimates 5 million soybean acres have not yet been planted.
- Cotton: 9.4 million planted acres, with rainy weather proving to be a double-edged sword. While wet fields have left fields “blank” for growers like the Nueces County, Texas, farmer quoted earlier, those same weather patterns could help other producers. “Given that drought conditions have eased and soil moisture is increasing, yields could turn out to be higher than expected if conditions persist and abandonment rates may finally be lower than what has been seen in recent years.”
Currently, the USDA estimates farmers will plant 88.2 million acres of corn, 84.6 million acres of soybeans, 55.4 million acres of wheat, and 9.6 million acres of cotton, according to its March 2015 Prospective Plantings Report.
What do fields look like in your area? Leave your comments below or send your photos and observations to AgWeb’s Crop Comments section.