Corn growers intend to plant 85 million acres of corn for all purposes this spring, down 1 percent from last year, according to the March 31 Prospective Plantings report from USDA. Lower corn prices and unstable input costs are discouraging some growers from planting corn, the report notes. If farmers stick to those plans, this will be the second consecutive year-to-year decrease in corn acreage but also the third-largest acreage since 1949, behind 2007 and 2008. Also, while planting intentions are down overall, producers in the 10 biggest corn-producing states indicate acreage will be up slightly from last year.

Soybean plantings, meanwhile, will increase slightly from last year and could set a new record for planted acreage, according to the report. USDA also released a new Grain Stocks report indicating corn stocks on March 1 were up 1 percent over 2008, soybean stocks down 9 percent and wheat stocks up 46 percent from a year ago.

University of Nebraska economist Darrell Mark, PhD, notes that while livestock producers would like to see bigger corn acreage, the fact that acreage didn’t drop into the lower 80 million-acre range should help prevent large, sustained rallies, assuming a decent growing year.  

Mark also notes that the report showed significant acreage reductions for several other major crops, with planting intentions down 16 percent for sorghum, 6.6 percent for barley, 7.3 percent for winter wheat, and reductions also indicated for durum wheat, spring wheat, cotton, sunflowers, canola and peanuts. Total planned reductions, balanced with increased acreage for a few other crops, result in almost 7.8 million fewer planted acres compared with last year.

Urban encroachment can’t account for that many acres, so Mark says it is likely producers have not yet made all their planting decisions, and actual acreage for some crops will increase. He notes that over the past 20 years, the Prospective Plantings report for corn has underestimated actual corn planted acres in seven years and overestimated the total in 13 years. Based on the number of “undecided” acres, there could be room for an increase in actual corn plantings, but market signals will determine final decisions for farmers. For the full report, click here.