Farmers increased total crop acreage significantly in 2012, according to the June Acreage report. USDA reports acreage for the 21 principal crops and the data show the total for 2012 is 325.8 million acres. Total principal crop acreage in 2011 was 315.0 million acres, with wet weather forcing farmers in some states to leave land idle. The total exceeds the recent high set in 2008 and is the largest acreage for the crops since farmers planted 327.3 million acres back in 2002.
Farmers increased acreage of most crops from 2011 to 2012. Corn acreage for 2012 came in at 96.4 million acres, the highest total since 1937. Corn acreage is up nearly 4.5 million acres compared to the 2011 level. But other crops also posted big year-over-year gains. Acreage of other hay (all hay excluding alfalfa) is 2.4 million acres higher than it was in 2011 and total wheat acreage is 1.6 million acres higher. Barley acreage increased by more than 1 million acres and so did soybeans. There were also big increases in sorghum and canola acreage. Cotton acreage showed the biggest year-to-year decline, falling by about 2.1 million acres from 2011 to 2012.
Wet weather kept farmers from planting a lot of land in 2011 in the Dakotas. Total crop acreage in North Dakota fell from 21.5 million acres in 2010 to 18.2 million in 2011. This year North Dakota acreage rebounded to 22.6 million acres, the highest total since 2008. Acreage in South Dakota is up a little more than 1 million acres this year compared to 2011 to its highest level since 2001. There was also a huge increase in total crop area in Texas. Total crop acreage really didn’t change very much in the heart of the Corn Belt this year. Acreage in Iowa and Illinois edged up a little, but acreage in Indiana declined by 100,000 acres.
Total crop acreage may increase further in the next few years. The cap on the Conservation Reserve Program will probably be lowered with the next farm bill and about 5 million acres will exit the program and possibly return to production by 2017. We could see about 2 million acres exit the CRP and be available for production in 2013. Contracts covering 6.5 million acres expire at the end of September and so far, USDA has enrolled only 3.9 million acres into the program beginning October 1. If things stay as they are, the amount of land available for crops in 2013 would increase by about 650,000 acres in North Dakota and 437,000 acres in Montana.
Other states with potentially large increases in crop area include South Dakota, up 171,000 acres, Minnesota, 193,000 acres Kansas, 141,000 acres, and Missouri 146,000 acres. With the crop problems this year, crop prices will probably stay high, providing incentives for farmers to return the land to crop production.