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Acreage Report Preview: Farmers Weigh In On How Planting Plans Changed From March To June

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As USDA prepares to post its June 30 planted acreage report, the trade is watching to see just what those numbers will be.  

“There's almost always a big surprise in these reports,” says Joe Vaclavik of Standard Grain.

“The assumption is that we'll see much larger corn acreage and also larger soybean acreage versus March intentions.”

According to USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report, which surveyed farmers in mid-March, U.S. farmers intended to increase corn acres by less than 1% and bump soybean acres nationwide by 5%. The wheat responses showed all wheat acres up 5%, but cotton farmers indicated they planted slightly fewer cotton acres overall.

Consistent Corn Belt Planting Plans


As USDA resurveyed growers for the June report, most planting plans are in the ground.

“The weather and, for that matter, the markets didn't necessarily impact that to a tremendous amount,” says Tim Boring, a farmer in South-Central Michigan.

The Michigan farmer says his planting decisions didn’t change from March until now.

“We really had acreage decisions nailed down here before we went to the field om that March time frame,” he says.

A dry spring aided planting progress on his farm, but didn’t encourage him to continue to plant more corn this year.

“If anything, because we've been able to get crops planted a little bit more timely, we worried about them more once they've been in the ground and making sure they're up and going,” says Boring.

In Iowa, dryness is still a concern for some.

“Our subsoil is really short,” says Curt Mether, a farmer in Logan, Iowa. “It was a dry summer last year, and we had a good crop but we used all our subsoil moisture. We got recharged a little bit this winter, but we're really dry.”

Mether says the dryness didn’t drive any changes in his planting plans.

“As far as acreage, they didn't change because that's what our rotation is,” he explains.

No change in acreage decisions from March until now is also a story echoed further east by Tim Couser, who farms in Nevada, Iowa.

“This year, the decision on the corn-bean split was pretty simple,” he says.  “Last year, we were in the middle of the derecho damage, and so everything that was corn last year, for the most part, went to soybeans.”

Couser says with concerns about volunteer corn from corn blown down by the derecho last year, his switch to more soybeans was planned and didn’t change from March until now.

“Overall, the market stayed pretty much relative to each other,” he says. “So, there was no drastic decision to switch from one crop to the other.”

Surge in Sorghum

But farmers farther south switched up planting plans, especially in places like the Texas Panhandle, with more farmers moving to milo/sorghum planting decisions this year.

“I think milo was the big winner as far as prices go and bought the crop. I think that's what we're seeing around here,” says Tim Stedje, a farmer in Gruver, Texas.

He says planting decisions differed as planted acres of sorghum soared in his area.

“I'd say we increased about 30% but we had more than normal last year, as well, so, we’re up quite a bit.”

Stedje says the main driver of that is basis, which made sorghum more profitable than corn when planting decisions were made.  

“Early, when we're making our planning decisions, it was probably 30% to 40% higher than corn in our area,” says Stedje. “So, it's less risk.”

For the Texas farmer, the surge in sorghum acres could be the headline next week when USDA releases its updated June acreage numbers.

“That's going to be the big surprise coming into the report is the decrease in cotton acres,” he says. “You just drive around and you don't see much cotton.”

Texas Panhandle farmers aren’t alone.  An agronomist in southwest Kansas says sorghum sales were up 190% this year, with USDA’s March Planting Intentions report already showing farmers planned to plant the most sorghum acres since 2015.

A Switch at the Cost of Cotton

In southern states like Mississippi, a switch in acres could come at the cost of cotton.

“I know my granddad had several cotton acres he was looking to put in, and they ended up being too wet and so their soybeans increased,” says Gentry Clark, a farmer in Mississippi. “But marketing decisions this year factored in more than the weather.”

Clark  says his acres are planted heavily in soybeans, but his planting decisions aren’t over yet.

“On June 9, it started raining. And just to the north of us, they got about a total of 15 to 18 inches of rain in four days,” he says.

Replant Decisions Linger

Clark’s farms saw 10" of rain, but as the nearby river rose, several of his fields were under 2' to 3' feet of water for two weeks.

“We have a third of the crop total that went under for me personally,” he says.

Soybeans and cotton acres were hurt the most in the area, as farmers are still sourcing seed to replant.

“What didn't go underwater looks really good still,” says Clark. “We have several acres that we were able to put a relief pump in and save," he says. "And then we've got fields where there's nothing, and we've got fields where they're looking really sickly. Right now we're playing a waiting game and trying to see just how much we'll have to replant. We know there'll be some, but we can't put our finger on exact acres yet.”

Rain Relief 

And as farmers in Central and Eastern Iowa welcome some rain this week, it was just in time for some of the state’s corn crop.

“We are definitely (needing) an inch of rain every week,” says Couser. “And if we don't get that, then we're going to take a little yield off the top every week we go without.”

Farmers in Western Iowa say recent rains haven’t been enough to cure their drought, as the severe conditions will need more moisture to break the extreme dryness.

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