U.S. farmers want to keep pushing soybean acres to another record in 2018, a shift that could lift plantings of the oilseed above corn for the first time since 1983.
Farm Futures latest survey shows farmers plan to put in 91.5 million acres of soybeans this spring, 1.5% more than a year ago. If achieved, the total would be the third straight record for soybeans, which steadily gained acreage over the past decade.
Corn seedings would fall slightly to just over 90 million, 150,000 less than growers put in a year ago. Farmers planted just 25,000 more acres to corn than soybeans in 2017.
Farm Futures January survey of growers showed corn and soybeans at a virtual dead heat. But soybeans have greater potential for yielding profits after a winter rally that lifted November futures near $10.50 a bushel.
“That’s a level where the average grower can start hedging new crop soybeans at a profit,” said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain market analyst. “By contrast, December corn futures have yet to approach levels where the average grower can feel comfortable locking in sales.”
The ratio of new crop soybean to corn futures continues to trade at a level that historically bought soybean acres. In most states Knorr studied recently, soybeans held a clear advantage to corn.
“The gap between corn and soybeans closed a little according to our forecasts due to strong old crop corn exports that are whittling down the amount of inventory expected to be left over at the end of the 2017 crop marketing year Aug. 31,” Knorr said. “But those figures are based on projected average cash prices, not the current futures market. Ultimately, weather as well as economics will play into how much of both crops get planted this spring.”
The same holds true for other crops this spring. Growers in the South and West said they want to boost seedings of cotton, one of the few clear winners in the row crop market over the past two years. Farmers put their cotton ground at 13.3 million acres, up nearly 8% over 2017, thanks to new crop futures prices making new contract highs.
Farmers also want to boost acreage devoted to sorghum, a feed grain alternative popular on the southwest Plains. Growers put their hopes at 5.9 million acres, up 4% from 2017. Sorghum exports got off to a strong start in the 2017 marketing year thanks to buying from China. But that trade is in question after China opened an investigation into alleged “dumping” by the U.S., often a prelude to trade restrictions.
Weather could impact plantings on the Plains, which are still suffering drought in many areas. Nonetheless, farmers on the northern Plains are planning to boost spring wheat seedings 6% to 11.7 million, though durum acreage could be down 2% due to poor export prospects.
The latest survey also found fewer winter wheat acres than USDA reported in January. The survey put all wheat acreage at 46.2 million, up just .5% from 2017.
USDA releases its highly anticipated Prospective Plantings report March 29.
Farm Futures collected responses from nearly 1,400 growers for its latest survey. Producers were invited by email March 1 to March 22 to complete an online questionnaire. Growers from 41 states responded to the survey.