USDA raised its planting forecasts for corn, soybean and most wheat but slashed its estimate for cotton planting as dryness in Texas continues.
Farmers will be planting 92 million acres of corn this year, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said in its 2023 Prospective Plantings report. That’s a million more acres than NASS projected last month during USDA’s annual Ag Outlook Forum and higher than the 88.6 million acres that farmers planted last year.
While the new NASS estimate for corn was generally higher than market expectations, the expectation for soybean plantings was lower, said Jack Scoville, vice president of The Price Futures Group.
NASS projected 2023 plantings at 87.5 million acres, which is unchanged from the February forecast and only slightly higher than the 87.2 million acres planted last year.
“The biggest surprise to the market was in soybeans,” said Frank Cholly, a senior market strategist for RJO Futures. “Acres and stocks are lower than expected. Soybeans were trading higher going into the report and then they made new highs.”
NASS estimates that there were 7.4 billion bushels of corn in storage – both on- and off-farm – as of March 1, according to its quarterly Grain Stocks report, which was also released Friday. That’s about 5% lower than at the same time a year ago.
Corn and soybean futures prices both rose after the release of the two NASS reports.
There were 1.69 billion bushels of soybeans in storage as of March 1, according to the NASS report, a 13% drop from a year ago.
As for wheat, the new NASS forecast for stocks was also lower than most market analysts were expecting, Scoville said. Total wheat in storage was pegged at 946 million bushels – about 8% down from a year ago. Durum wheat stocks were up 18%, despite the overall increase.
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Farmers have planted more winter wheat for harvest this year and are expected to plant less spring wheat, according to NASS, which put overall wheat acreage at 49.9 million, about 400,000 more acres than the February estimate and even higher than the 45.7 million acres planted last year.
NASS sharply dropped its planting estimate for cotton to just 11.3 million acres – an 18% decline from last year – but Cholly said he believed that wasn’t low enough.
“I’m a little more bullish on cotton (prices)," he said. “West Texas is very dry and cotton prices will likely go higher. Some weather premiums need to be built in there.”
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