A look at total crop acreage
On Jan. 10, USDA released its Annual Crop Production report. In general, the data released will remain unchanged, perhaps until the next Census of Agriculture. Many people expected USDA to raise the corn production estimate for 2013 but USDA lowered the yield and cut the crop by 64 million bushels. Production is now put at 13.925 billion bushels with a national average yield of 158.8 bushels per acre. The yield is substantially higher than the 123.4 bushels per acre recorded for 2012, but still about 5 bushels or more below trend. The final planted acreage figure for 2013 was 95.4 million acres but the data show that farmers wanted to plant more than 98 million acres to corn, but were unable to reach that level due to the wet spring which caused severe planting delays. USDA also made minor adjustments to production levels for soybeans (up 31 million bushels), and cotton (up 120,000 bales).
click image to zoom USDA also reports acreage planted to the 21 “principal” crops. The total principal crop acreage for 2013 is put at 324.8 million acres, down 805,000 from the 2012 total. With farmers saying they were unable to plant more than 8 million acres because of the wet spring, it is surprising that the change from 2012 to 2013 wasn’t larger. But total crop acreage in Texas rebounded by 1.5 million acres following the drought in 2012 which partially offset declines in other states including a 456,000 acre reduction in Iowa and a nearly 400,000 acre drop in Wisconsin. However, total crop acreage has increased fairly significantly in recent years. The 5-year average for total principal crop acreage is 320 million acres.
There is a lot of talk in the industry about acreage for 2014. Several sources are predicting that corn acreage will fall to around 90 million to 92 million acres this spring. That implies a drop of about 4 million to 5 million acres from the 2013 total. However, remember that farmers wanted to plant more than 98 million acres to corn last year and would have with a more normal spring. So these forecasts really imply a drop in corn acreage of closer to 7 million acres year-to-year. That would be a huge drop, especially with 2014 corn futures prices above $4.50 and fertilizer prices down by more than 20 percent from a year ago. But assuming that we do see corn acres down that much – where do all of those acres go?
Some of the acreage not planted to corn could shift to soybeans. Forecasts for U.S. soybean acreage for 2014 range as high as 82 million acres, up 5.5 million from the 2013 level. But the weather also kept farmers from planting all of the soybeans they wanted last year. Farmers reported that the weather kept them from planting an additional 1.7 million acres last spring. If that is accurate, the implied increase in soybean acreage may be closer to 4 million acres even if we get to the 82 million acres some forecasters are predicting.
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