For 2019, USDA predicts U.S. farmers will plant 92 million acres of corn, which is a 3.3% jump from last year. Alternatively, farmers will plant 85 million acres of soybeans, which is down 4.7% from last year, as shared this morning by USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson.
With the large overhang in soybean stocks, soybean area needs to adjust to work down record large soybean carry-in stocks. As a result, soybean area is expected to fall 4.2 million acres, to 85 million acres in 2019," says Johansson, who spoke at USDA’s 2019 Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va.
Corn is expected to be the primary beneficiary of the decline in soybean acres. At 92 million, corn acres are the largest since the 2016 planting season, “when the price ratio was more favorable to corn,” he says.
To round out the top crops, USDA forecasts 47 million acres of wheat, 14.3 million acres of cotton and 2.7 million acres of rice to be planted this year. Cotton acres are at a five-year high, while wheat acres are at a five-year low, according to USDA.
As for prices, USDA forecasts a slight improvement in 2019 for all major crops except cotton. This year’s season-average price for corn is forecast at $3.65, up 1.4% from 2018. The season-average price for soybeans in 2018 is forecast at $8.80, a 2.3% increase from 2018. What prices are forecast at $5.20, up 1% from last year.
“Under the expectation of continued Chinese tariffs, soybean prices are expected to rise modestly, up $0.20 to $8.80 per bushel as the market begins the multi-year process of working down large stocks, but this follows the prior year’s decline of $0.73 per bushel,” Johansson says.
Corn prices are expected to increase for the second year. “Carry out stocks are expected to continue their multi-year tightening,” he says.
In 2017, U.S. corn growers planted 81.7 million acres of corn and produced 14.4 billion bushels. The average national yield was 176.4 bu. per acre, which was 0.2 bushel below the 2017 record yield of 176.6 bu. per acre.
For soybeans, 2018 acres were 88.1 million and production was 4.54 billion bushels, up 3% from 2017. The average national soybean yield was 51.6 bu. per acre, up 2.3 bu. from 2017, but 0.3 bu. below 2016’s record yield.
Ahead of the USDA Forum, according to Allendale, the average trade estimates for corn plantings was 91.512 million acres with a national corn yield of 177.1 bu. per acre. The soybean acreage estimate was 86.144 million, with a national soybean yield of 50.9 bu. per acre. Wheat acres were estimated at 47.196 million acres, with a national wheat yield of 47.7 bu. per acre.
Johansson notes several uncertainties this year that have a direct impact on the outlook for crops, livestock and dairy this year.
“Questions about policy, trade, weather, and market information all are having an impact making the outlook less certain than perhaps any time since the first year of Freedom to Farm in 1996,” he says.
View Johansson's slides and read a transcript of his presentation.