USDA has updated cost of production budgets for 2010 and provided estimates for 2011 for the major crops. The new data are available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/commodity-costs-and-returns.aspx. The new data shows that production costs increased significantly from 2010 to 2011 due in large part to increases in prices for fuels and fertilizer. The national operating costs per acre for corn in 2011 came in at $332, up from $286 in 2010. Soybean production costs went up $5 per acre and wheat costs rose $18 per acre.
If we use current new crop futures prices for the 2013 crop, budgets show the net returns over operating costs will be much better for corn than they are for soybeans. We use the December 2013 corn price of $6.33 per bushel and the November 2013 soybean price of $13.50 per bushel in this analysis. With these prices corn net returns over operating costs come in at $575 per acre, compared to soybean net returns near $450 per acre. We compare the returns for soybeans to the returns for corn-following-corn. With corn following corn we allow for a 10 percent yield penalty and higher fertilizer and chemical costs. For corn following soybeans, the advantage for corn would be even larger.