As the trade war with China marches on, the soybean market continues to experience significant downward pressure. Will low soybean prices cause farmers to change their acreage mix and lean more toward other crops? We asked three farmers from different states to weigh in.
Q. Do you plan to change your acreage mix because of soybean prices and the tariffs?
Jed Bowers Washington Court House, Ohio
On 1,000 acres, Jed grows corn and soybeans. He is president of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.
A: “No. We farm in the southern part of the state, and we’re having a water quality issue in the northern part of the state. So, we’re working diligently on water quality. Not that the soybean price doesn’t concern me, because it does along with the corn price, but I’m more concerned about soil health and managing my rotation. That being said, I’m slightly heavy on corn for next year (but just by 20 acres). I’m primarily a 50/50 rotation, and I have been a 50/50 rotation for most of my career. I don’t like the prices, but I don’t plan to change anything yet. I’m just going to tough it out. As farmers, we’re not good at talking about what we do, but we do care about soil health and being good stewards. The markets are really hurting us now, but that’s why I’m choosing not to make a drastic change yet.”
Steve Turner Chandlerville, Ill.
On 2,350 acres, Steve and his sons grow a combination of soybeans, corn, popcorn, wheat and alfalfa. They also have a cow-calf herd.
A: “The past two years, I’ve been 50% corn and popcorn and 50% soybeans. Usually, we’re 70% corn. I want to lean toward corn for next year, but I need to look at input costs and profitability. I’ve been heavy soybeans the past two years, so I’m going to have to plant more corn. A lot of my neighbors are in the same boat because this part of Illinois has been heavy soybeans. Bottom line: I’ve got to do some budgeting to make planting decisions. Tariffs have had a significant impact on my decisions. If we still had $10 soybeans, I’d probably find a way to plant more soybeans. But the lack of Chinese buying has driven the price of soybeans lower. Lower prices are going to make me think twice about planting soybeans. I plant about the same amount of popcorn every year because it’s a contract crop.”
Roric Paulman Sutherland, Neb.
On 10,000 acres, Roric grows a combination of row and specialty crops.
A: “This year, we were 5% chickpeas, 40% soybeans, 45% popcorn and 10% grain corn. For next year we’ve already planted 15% to wheat. We have not grown wheat in six years. Our wheat is traded on the Kansas City Board of Trade. So, when those futures got up into the $6.40 range, we hedged 100% of our crop for next year. So, that’s a significant change for us. Our popcorn acres will stay the same and our soybean acres will drop from 50% to about 25%. Grain corn will make up the difference. We are reducing our soybean acres because we have to have clean acres for popcorn. We can grow popcorn on popcorn, but prefer not to. In the past, we’ve grown sunflowers, chia and a lot of dry beans. Those are all markets that come to us in the spring. Our decisions are also dictated by water, since we’re in an allocated water area. It’s very difficult to grow corn and soybeans because they are high-water users. We’ve done some preliminary planning, and we’re 100% hedged on corn for next year.”