How will acreage numbers shake out this spring?
The annual acreage competition is always a wild card. As clearly demonstrated during the past few springs, farmers’ planting intentions often evolve since Mother Nature holds all the trump cards.
Corn has been king the past few years as high prices coaxed farmers in 2013 to dedicate more than 95 million acres to the crop. With this year’s lower corn prices, how many farmers will switch back to a more even mix of corn and soybeans?
According to a mid-February Farm Journal Pulse text message survey, most farmers will plant half of their acres or less to corn. More than 1,300 respondents answered the question: What percent of your acres will be planted to corn?
In total, 27% of respondents will plant more than 56% of their acres to corn. Thirty percent of respondents plan to plant 46% to 55% of their acres in corn, while 19% will plant 26% to 45% of their acres to the crop.
More beans. Soybean prices have been strong so far this year due to purchases from China and droughty weather reports from South America.
"The market is trying to make sure farmers plant more soybean acres," says Bob Utterback, Farm Journal economist. However, he adds, crop rotation and agronomic considerations have historically trumped price incentives.
"Farmers don’t typically like to shift their production mixes significantly from year to year," he says. "With the dry weather we’ve had and issues with continuous corn, I think farmers have wanted to shift back to a rotation between corn and soybeans."
Storage capacity, crop insurance prices, equipment purchases and tillage practices could keep farmers locked in to certain crops, Utterback notes. "I’d say 75% of the acres were decided when farmers did fall tillage," he says.
Farmers who own their land have more flexibility than those who rent farmland, he adds. "From a cash flow standpoint, there is less risk with soybeans," Utterback says.
Of course, spring weather might be the biggest factor of all. "Not until we get closer to planting will we truly get a gauge of how many farmers are going to switch more acres to soybeans or perhaps back to cotton or wheat," says Kevin Van Trump, president of Farm Direction.
If corn prices creep higher and farmers try to chase yields in order to pay high-priced rents, Van Trump says farmers might plant close to 95 million acres of corn.
"On the flip side, if corn prices drift lower and weather conditions delay planting, more farmers might go with soybeans," he says.
To see a full listing of past Farm Journal Pulse polls and sign up to participate in the survey, visit www.FarmJournalPulse.com