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USDA’s Prospective Plantings show farmer planting expectations

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This week, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its Prospective Plantings report and quarterly Grain Stocks report, which caused markets — and farmers — to react favorably. In both corn and soybeans, traders were expecting even more acres to be planted than reported, causing markets to reach their daily high limit. 

The Prospective Plantings report provides the first official, survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2021 planting intentions. NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of nearly 80,000 farm operators across the nation.

Producers surveyed across the United States intend to plant an estimated 91.1 million acres of corn in 2021, up less than 1% from last year, according to the report. 

Planted acreage intentions for corn are up or unchanged in 24 of the 48 estimating states. The largest increases are expected in the Dakotas, where producers intend to plant a combined 8.90 million acres, an increase of 2.00 million acres from 2020. However, producers across most of the Corn Belt intend to plant fewer acres than last year. If realized, the planted area of corn in Idaho and Oregon will be the largest on record.

Soybean growers intend to plant 87.6 million acres in 2021, up 5% from last year. If realized, this will be the third highest planted acreage on record. Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 23 of the 29 states estimated.

 Other key findings in the report are:

  • All wheat planted area for 2021 is estimated at 46.4 million acres, up 5% from 2020. This represents the fourth lowest all wheat planted area since records began in 1919.
  • Winter wheat planted area, at 33.1 million acres, is up 3% from the previous estimate and up 9% from last year. This is the seventh lowest planted acreage on record.
  • Area planted to other spring wheat for 2021 is expected to total 11.7 million acres, down 4% from 2020.
  • Durum wheat is expected to total 1.54 million acres for 2021, down 9% from last year.
  • All cotton planted area for 2021 is expected to total 12.0 million acres, less than 1% below last year.

NASS also released the quarterly Grain Stocks report to provide estimates of on-farm and off-farm stocks as of March 1. Key findings in that report include:

  • Corn stocks totaled 7.70 billion bushels, down 3% from the same time last year. On-farm corn stocks were down 9% from a year ago, but off-farm stocks were up 5%.
  • Soybeans stored totaled 1.56 billion bushels, down 31% from March 1, 2020. On-farm soybean stocks were down 41% from a year ago, while off-farm stocks were down 22%.
  • All wheat stored totaled 1.31 billion bushels, down 7% from a year ago. On-farm all wheat stocks went down 16% from last year, while off-farm stocks went down 4%.
  • Durum wheat stored totaled 42.7 million bushels, down 17% from March 1, 2020. On-farm Durum stocks were down 4% from a year ago, while off-farm stocks of Durum wheat were down 28%.

These reports caused corn and soybean markets to “limit up” yesterday. That meant the commodities reached their maximum for the day — corn went up 25¢ a bushel and soybeans up 70¢ a bushel for the day. However, today, both markets have dropped once again. Only time will tell if these reports are reflective of what farmers actually decide to plant in the up coming months. 

The Prospective Plantings, Grain Stocks, and all other NASS reports are available online.

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