Farm Talk

April 8, 2014

USDA: Corn acres expected to drop 4%

Associated Press

Parsons, KS — The amount of American cropland devoted to corn is expected to shrink about 4 percent this year as farmers devote more acres to soybeans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week.

The USDA expects 91.7 million acres of corn to be planted this year, down from 95.37 million acres last year. The acreage devoted to soybeans is expected to grow about 6 percent to 81.5 million acres from last year's 76.5 million acres.

Farmer Ray Gaesser said farmers are responding to predictions for tight soybean supplies and relatively high crop prices. Gaesser, who serves as president of the American Soybean Association, said demand for soybeans is clearly high going into this year.

``There will undoubtedly be more soybeans planted,'' Gaesser said.

Over the last several years, farmers planted more corn in response to strong prices for that crop thanks to growing international demand and increasing ethanol production.

Now farmers are shifting land back to a more normal split between corn and soybeans because corn prices have cooled after the government proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that must be blended with gasoline in 2014.

Iowa State University agricultural economist Mike Duffy said the shift will likely reduce corn stockpiles a bit and improve soybean supplies.

In Kansas, farmers plan to put in slightly more acres of corn and soybeans this season than they did a year ago, the report shows.

Farmers told the National Agricultural Statistics Service they intend to sow 4.4 million acres of corn this spring in Kansas, up 2 percent from last year. The number of acres in the state expected to be seeded for soybeans is also up to 3.9 million acres for an 8 percent increase.

Meanwhile, anticipated plantings of sorghum tumbled to 2.7 million acres, a decrease of 13 percent when compared with the last season.

``You have to remember these estimates are exactly that: They are estimates and they go off of talking to growers about their intentions on what they are interested in planting. Yet, there is very little seed in the ground yet,'' said Sue Schulte, spokeswoman for the Kansas Corn Growers Association and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.

A lot of factors, including weather, can influence spring planting, Schulte said. A very wet spring, for example, may keep farmers out of the field and force them to turn to other crops, such as late-planted sorghum, a warmer season crop which is among the last to be seeded.

``Sometimes the crop that a farmer intends to plant is not always the crop that he ends up planting,'' she said. ``And because of that we usually take these early estimates with a little bit of a grain of salt.''

The report comes on the heels of Kansas growers planting fewer acres last fall into winter wheat. The report estimated some 9.3 million acres of winter wheat were planted last fall for harvest later this season, down 2 percent from 9.5 million acres the previous year.

This spring the weather has been dry enough in Kansas that growers have been able to get into their fields early and do some of the preparatory work, but they will need rain once the seed is in the ground. Kansas farmers typically plant in April and May for fall-harvested crops such as corn and soybeans.

Kent Moore grows corn, wheat and soybeans on his Iuka farm northwest of Pratt in south-central Kansas. Moore, who is also chairman of the Kansas Corn Commission, said the small percentage point changes in the government report do not reflect a huge change in acreages for the various crops.

Most growers have a crop rotation plan and stick with it, Moore said. Some might tweak the number of acres one way or the other depending on markets and other concerns but typically do not make wholesale changes.

``Personally, on my own acreage, the crop mix is basically the same as it was a year ago,'' Moore said. ``It really didn't change any.''