I-80 Planting Tour 2017 Preview: What Are Farmers Planting?

April 3, 2017 08:22 AM

USDA’s Prospective Plantings report is forecasting planted acreage for corn to be at 90 million acres, down 4 percent or 4 million acres from last year. Soybean acreage for 2017 is estimated at a record-high 89.5 million acres, an increase of 7 percent from last year.

“We’ve always been heavy on corn-on-corn so we can have the corn to feed and then rotate corn on those bean acres,” said Mike Berdo, a Washington, Ia. livestock producer.

But Berdo says he may not be alone in his thinking. He put anhydrous ammonia down in February, something he’s never done before. If the weather holds, others may plant King Corn in his area too.

“We’ve had sufficient moisture, but this reminds me of the winter of 2011 and 2012 where it was real mild,” said Berdo. “I’m not saying we’re in a drought but it reminds me a lot of that year going into 2012.”

However, some analysts say weather may have more of an influence.

“The producers have had great yields in corn around the country the last couple of years,” said Brian Basting, an analyst with Advance Trading. “If they continue to get good weather going into planting time, there’s a good chance those extra acres could surprise the market and go to corn when it’s all set and done.”

Extra acres could potentially be seen in the fringe states where weather is key.

“In North and South Dakota, it’s not totally about price,” said DuWayne Bosse, an analyst with Bolt Marketing. “It’s actually about our spring weather. If we have a nice, good spring, I don’t know if corn acres will be down at all in these fringe areas.”

For others like John Kennay, a farmer from Ashlton, Ill., soybean price has more sway. 

“I switched about 30 percent of my acres to beans, and that’s strictly driven by the Board of Trade,” said Kennay. “It’s going to be a little better to have $10 beans sold than $3.50 corn.”

Kennay usually grows continuous corn-on-corn. A larger switch to beans is something he hasn’t done in six years. A large bean yield is hard to resist.

“We had a plot last year and every variety went about 80 bushels per acre,” said Kennay. “Putting beans on long-term ground will be better long term, too.

Like Berdo, Kennay says his area saw a mild winter, but the tile lines are running well.

“Moisture conditions are fine but we’ve had little snow,” said Kennay. “We had a good snow late December. Beyond that, virtually nothing,” said Kennay.

“The [acreage] question depends on how farms are set up from last fall on a corn-on-corn continuous basis,” said Joe Vaclavik, president and founder of Standard Grain. “The trade is terrible at guessing these acreage numbers. It’s very difficult to predict this stuff.”

U.S. farmers may not know the real acreage mix and impact until well into the season. Until then, producers will continue on with their plans for the upcoming season.

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