According to the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report, U.S. farmers will plant 93.6 million corn acres this year, the most since 2013 and the third-most since 1944. Markets acted swiftly and negatively, pushing prices back into the $3.50 per bu. range.
"The bottom line is that 93.6 million acres is too much corn acreage that with normal yields will cause further building of already-large corn inventories," says Purdue University ag economist Chris Hurt. "Production would be expected to move above 14 billion bushels, with corn prices at harvest falling to the lower $3 per bushel."
But are Corn Belt farmers overestimating their total acreage numbers? Hurt speculates this could be the case, after seeing corn acre estimates rise by 1.5 million acres and soybean acres also somehow increasing by 840,000 acres.
Commodity broker Kevin McNew is also skeptical about some of the report’s findings.
“Yesterday's report on corn plantings, while shockingly large, is already being discounted as irrelevant because most see farmers changing their mind in the last month as a result of much higher soybean prices,” he says. “So, the June 30th Acreage Report will be that much more important for determining what actually gets planted.”
Grain marketer Ted Seifried with Zaner Ag Hedge Group says corn acreage intentions in the Delta might be artificially high based on the current weather situation there.
Corn planting in the delta has come to a halt with round after round of heavy rains stopping planting progress and drowning out many fields,” he says. “This is important this year because the intentions are for sharply higher corn acres in the delta. If dryer weather does not come soon a significant amount of acreage may have to be switched to other crops.”
Hurt says accuracy concerns aside, the Prospective Plantings report still has a significant effect on farmer incentives to plant one crop versus another.
"These reports together suggest that the market prices of corn and soybeans will now adjust to give producers reduced financial incentives to plant corn and increased price incentives to plant more soybeans, spring wheat and other spring-planted crops," he says.
McNew advises to focus on short-dated options for December corn and November soybeans with expiration on July 22, or alternatively, use a late-summer option on September corn and August soybeans.
“With nearly full carry in the market, any impacts on new-crop 2016 production will lift old-crop deliveries as well,” he says. “With soybeans well above $9 and the soy-to-corn ratio at better than 2.5, I would be eager to protect soybeans and leave more upside for corn.”