How many corn acres will be planted in 2013?

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What is your guess for the March 28th USDA projection for planted acreage for corn?  Likely, if you are not planting as much corn as others, you think the number will be on the low end of the 96-99 million possible range. 

On the other hand, if you are planting more, you might be on the higher end.  Regardless of what USDA’s estimate is for Prospective Plantings, there are too many variables for it to be anything more than an educated guess, as of March 28.  How far the market takes the number to the bank will be anyone’s uneducated guess.

USDA’s statisticians in the National Agriculture Statistic Service are talented and do a great job at what they do but are limited to their policy of making estimates based on normal weather conditions.  With the weather being rather uncooperative with crop production, it is also uncooperative with statistical estimation.

There is any number of variables that may affect the USDA estimate, says University of Illinois marketing specialist Darrel Good.  

  1. The total acreage available for spring crops has some uncertainty because of the decline in acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, which is down 2.6 million from last year.  Good says, “How much of that reduction will be planted to crops in 2013 is not known.”  Some of the 600,000 acres of winter wheat were likely planted in former CRP, but wheat acres do not always follow a prior year’s crop and sometimes are double-cropped, so doing the math is not easy.
  2. Spring weather conditions will be a complicating factor because of the potential for an increase in prevented plantings.  With more crop insurance this spring, there could be an increase in prevented plantings just because of the higher enrollment.  However, weather issues are highly variable from year to year, and Good says, “Prevented planted acres totaled only 1.24 million acres in 2012, after being quite large in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In those three years, prevented plantings were reported at 4.18 million, 6.89 million, and 9.62 million acres, respectively.”  And with the potential for spring flooding in areas of snow cover on the northern plains, what amount of acreage could be abandoned?
  3. Acreage will also be a function of crop prices, regardless of geography.  Corn and soybeans will compete with rice and cotton in southern states and price ratios are drivers there.  In the Cornbelt, soybeans had been in the driver’s seat for several weeks, but the corn to soybean relationship has dropped recently from nearly 1:2.3 to 1:2.1. 
  4. Delays related to cold and wet soils could have an impact.  Although current technology and equipment sizes have demonstrated that substantial acreage can be planted in a week, when that week will start remains in doubt.  With 6-15 inches of snow across a wide swath of the Cornbelt, fields could be cold and wet for some time to come.  Meteorologists have indicated that a cold March is followed by a cold April, and then a warm May, for the most part.  With the yield penalty for late planted corn, Good says, that calendar will begin shortly, “For much of the Midwest, that optimum planting window is from about mid-April through early May, with increasingly large yield penalties after mid-May.”

While USDA’s statisticians will be working off trend yields, and despite seed still being in the bag, the predictions can be made that include normal weather.  However, with all of the potential variables, including the opportunity to flex between corn and soybeans based on the lack of nitrogen applied last fall, significant changes could come all the way up to the time the planter gets to the field.

Summary:

USDA’s projections for planting intentions later this week include many variables that make an accurate prediction quite difficult.  Delays in planting due to the weather, increased potential for prevented planted and acreage abandonment due to flooding, uncertainty about how much of the newly released CRP acres will be planted,  and changes in crop price relationships over the next several weeks could all have a significant impact on final acreage.

Source: FarmGate blog


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