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USDA predicts more soybean acres this year

Acres planted in soybeans could reach a record high this year. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
Acres planted in soybeans could reach a record high this year. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is predicting fewer acres will be planted in corn this year, compared to last year, while soybean acreage will be up.

In its Prospective Plantings report, the federal agency uses survey data collected from farmers to estimate how much of each grain will be planted. While the corn estimate of 91.7 million acres would mark the lowest acreage since 2010, it would still rank as the fifth largest planting of that grain in the United States since 1944.

But with the price of corn down to around $5 per bushel, after recent peaks that exceeded $7 per bushel, some farmers may plant more soybeans than they have in the past few years.

The soybean estimate is for a record high of 81.5 million acres, up six percent from last year.

Dale Durchholz, a senior market analyst with the risk management group AgriVisor, says it’s a little too soon to say which crop will ultimately gain acres, and results may not be consistent across the corn belt. He’s hearing from Iowa farmers that they may be seeking more of a balanced rotation between corn and soybeans, after years that tilted toward corn.

“With spring not going to be early this year,” Durchholz said, “you really wonder, will we really see—if plantings end up going up—will it be corn or will it be beans [that goes up]? And I think it could, as much as anything, maybe be beans a little bit.”

But Durchholz says in Illinois soybeans may actually lose a little ground.  

Even if farmers plant less, analysts still expect corn to remain the single-largest American crop, especially in the Midwest. But the drought in 2012 followed by spring flooding in many areas in 2013 leave observers and farmers alike noting the likelihood that Mother Nature will dole out some kind of weather that rocks all the projections and intentions.