Following a year of record profits in 2011, farmers don't intend to stand still in 2012. The latest Farm Futures survey shows producers will increase seedings of corn and soybeans this spring, with overall wheat acreage also on the rise.
Farmers plan to put in 95.1 million acres of corn in 2012, which if achieved would be the most since 1944. The estimate is 3.5% more than the 91.9 million acres planted in 2011, a season disrupted by numerous planting delays in many areas that held back the total.
The March number from the Farm Futures survey is the highest since the magazine first queried farmers about their plans for 2012 in August 2011. Though Farm Futures second survey, in January 2012, showed a small drop from August in response to lower fall prices, the outlook for strong profits in the year ahead apparently convinced many growers to keep planting all the corn they can – and then some.
“While corn profits per acre don't look quite as strong as they were for 2011, prices used to set revenue guarantees in popular crop insurance programs still provide producers very good returns,” says Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, who conducted the survey. “We did notice some key shifts. Corn acreage could be flat in Illinois and slightly lower in Iowa, but farmers in all other traditional Corn Belt states said they wanted to plant more.”
Though they may not increase corn seedings in 2012, farmers in Illinois and Iowa will put in more soybeans to help improve crop rotations. That task is made easier by projected soybean returns that have doubled since crop insurance guarantees were set in February. Overall, farmers said they hope to plant 76 million acres of soybeans this spring, 1 million more than a year ago. That number was larger than the January Farm Futures survey, but less than first reported in August 2011, when prices were even higher.
“Soybeans turned out well in 2011 for many growers, who were pleasantly surprised by both yields and prices,” says Knorr. “Nothing succeeds like success, and beans appear to be attracting more acres as planting draws closer.”
One place where both corn and soybeans may be on the rise is North Dakota. Hit hard by flooding last year, that state is drier this spring. But rather than return to spring wheat, many growers there appear to be ready to shift ground to other crops.
Nationwide spring wheat plantings could be flat as a result at 12.4 million acres. Total wheat acres would still be up 4.3% to 56.7 million, but only because of a big increase in winter wheat seedings reported by USDA in January. Durum acreage, which was slashed by flooding last year, also could see less of a rebound, with 2.4 million acres possible.
More than 1,500 growers, an all-time high, responded to the survey, which was conducted by email from March 5-March 20.