Prospective Plantings Analysis: How Reliable?

Prospective Plantings Analysis: How Reliable?

Readers looking for USDA data, and even commentary about the data, have plenty to choose from. As Jerry Gulke said last week, it’s how the market trades that counts. The market voted today: Corn closed 18 cents lower, wheat was 15-19 cents lower. Soybeans managed a gain of 5-7 cents and cotton gained a half-cent. The interest in this report and Grain Stocks will trail off over the next few days and traders will be looking for weather news to fuel the market. For Gulke's post-report comments, click here.

To look a bit beyond the obvious, consider that the acreage of the eight principal crops totaled 324.8 million—roughly equal to all the arable land outside of vegetables, pasture and some minor crops. While that total is down 2 million acres from last year, it is virtually identical to 2012 and 2013, when prices were better. The drop from last year could be explained in several ways: Low prices causing some marginal acres to not be planted is one. Another is double-crop beans, which typically are counted for both crops. Winter wheat is down 1.6 million acres and 190,000 of that is in Illinois and Indiana, two states that double crop. Double-crop beans typically yield less than full season beans, so it could actually cause a small up-tick in bean yields.

More importantly, this survey reflects plans as of early March. These plans may already have changed because comparative profitability has changed. Gary Schnitkey at the University of Illinois developed the map below to illustrate projected profitability of corn versus beans.



Alan Brugler, president of Brugler Marketing and Management, points out we will see changes in the June Planted Acreage report and again in the January Acreage “final” figures. Buried back on page 34 of USDA’s 36-page report are reliability statistics based on the past 20 years. On average, there is a two out of three chance the March report's corn estimate will not be different from the final estimate by more than 1.9% and nine out of 10 chances the difference will not be greater than 3.3%. In the past 20 years, the difference in corn plantings between March and January have averaged 1.17 million acres. The high was 3.84 million and the low was only 32,000 acres. Notice in the table, the March report has been below the final number seven times and above 13 times. This makes sense, given poor weather can causes switches or even prevented planting, while excellent planting weather in the first half of May can result in an addition 500,000 to 1 million acres over intentions.


“This is as it should be,” says Brugler. “The reason for having a prospective plantings report is to let producers know whether too many are planning to grow the same crop before it is too late to change your crop mix. We should expect variance. In fact, it isn’t whether the survey is right or wrong, it is whether plans change.”

For more--much more--on the plantings report as well as the Grain Stocks:

Increase in soybean acreage lower than expected

Landing page with links to extensive coverage:



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Spell Check

Ny, NY
4/1/2015 03:22 PM

  Begining to end march plans has been changed do you think? We are face to face 2 years falling nothing change in a few weeks. 2012 97 million acre 2013 95 million acre 2014 91 million acre 2015 89 million acre nothing change it is going down as price going down. It is very important because as hedgers hold the futures market 70% farmers gives their opinion for fututre to plant less area as before in 2014 or 2013

4/2/2015 10:56 AM

  himm agenda? what it could be their agenda ? fall price to collect back but it is USDA so they are helping smeone? for what money? No there is no agenda just they are thinking they do their job but market is market even if they will say all corn burn it out if market see another price will fall because corn price is working for all world news usually (include USDA reports) gives just in USA there is huge differences

NewYork, NY
4/2/2015 03:42 AM

  Ha ha ha that is highly possible too Tony, it was good one..


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