WASHINGTON, June 30, 2015 – Farmers seeded less than 89 million acres of corn this spring, the fewest since 2010, and slashed cotton acreage by 18 percent, the Agriculture Department says.

Soybeans were more popular, as was sorghum. Farmers planted a record 85.1 million acres of soybeans, up 2 percent from 2014 and 8.8 million acres of sorghum, up from 7.1 million acres in 2014, according to USDA’s annualAcreage report.

Sorghum prices have been driven sharply higher because of demand for the grain in China.

Farmers trimmed wheat acreage by 1 percent to 56.1 million.

Growers planted 88.9 million acres of corn this spring, including 13.7 million acres in No. 1 corn producer Iowa, down from 90.6 million a year ago. Iowa’s acreage didn’t decline but there were small decreases among many other states, including Illinois, where acreage fell from 11.9 to 11.8 million, and South Dakota, down to 5.2 million this year from 5.8 million in 2014, and Missouri, down from 3.5 million to 3.2 million.

Meanwhile, farmers planted record amounts of soybeans in Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Cotton plantings fell from 11 million to 9 million acres as farmers responded to a sharp drop in the world price following a shift in Chinese policy. Farmers in Texas planted 5.2 million acres this year, a million fewer than in 2014, while seeding 600,000 more acres of sorghum.

University of Illinois economist Darrel Good says the soybean acreage could be overstated, since some of the crop hadn’t actually been planted when the report was prepared, and extremely wet weather could lead to more abandoned acreage than usual. The actual acreage “could be considerably less than the current forecast,” he writes.

A separate quarterly supply report showed sharply higher stocks for corn, soybeans and wheat from a year ago. Soybeans supplies totaled 625 million bushels on June 1, up 54 percent from a year earlier. Corn stocks were put at 4.45 billion on June 1, 15 percent above the year before.

The Iowa Soybean Association said the recent rally in soybean prices could continue based on today’s reports. ISA noted that the report indicated 10 million acres of the oilseed were planted in Iowa as of June 1, 100,000 acres less than projected in March. Estimated nationwide acreage was up 2 percent from last year, 500,000 more than March projections, but a little less than trade expectations.

Prices jumped more than 50 cents per bushel after the reports were released. “The uptick in prices is sorely needed in this time of tight margins,” said Grant Kimberley, ISA market development director.

Soybean prices on the Chicago Board of Trade increased more than $1 per bushel in June due to good demand, and persistent rainfall — primarily southwest Iowa, Missouri and Kansas — that prevented farmers from planting millions of acres of soybeans. Many acres were sown in less than ideal conditions. Analysts predict planted and harvested soybean acres will likely be reduced in future reports. Only 62 percent of Missouri’s expected 5.75 million soybean acres are planted

With an average corn yield this year of 165 bushels per acre, farmers are likely to produce 13.4 billion bushels of the grain, which would leave unsold supplies of 1.4 billion bushels at the end of the marketing year on Aug. 31, 2016, said Good, the University of Illinois economist. That would be a decline of 400 million bushels from the projected 2014-15 ending stocks and leave a stocks-to-use ratio of about 10 percent.

The president of the National Corn Growers Association, Chip Bowling, said consumers can “rest assured” that there will be enough corn despite the drop in plantings. "While planted acreage has decreased as farmers in many parts of the country face unrelentingly wet conditions, U.S. farmers have steadily increased our ability to grow more corn on every acre,” he said. 

 (This story was update at 9:30 p.m.)


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