April Fools – 2021 Prospective Plantings

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Corn and Soybean Planting Intentions Fall Short of Expectations for a Supply Boost.

USDA’s annual Prospective Plantings report, released on March 31, is the first look at the 2021 planting intentions farmers have for principal crops in 2021. The survey-based report estimates that as of March 1, U.S. farmers intend to plant 91.1 million acres of corn and 87.6 million acres of soybeans in 2021. Combined, corn and soybean acres would be an estimated 178.7 million acres, the second-highest acreage on record, behind only 2017, when more than 180 million acres were planted. But with tightening supplies rapidly driving commodity prices higher over the last month, it’s hard to believe farmers would not consider this incentive to plant more acres of both corn and soybeans and surpass the 2017 record.

At the 2021 Agricultural Outlook Forum in February, USDA estimated farmers would plant 92 million acres of corn and 90 million acres of soybeans (ICYMI: 2021 Agricultural Outlook Forum Highlights). Leading up to this report, analysts’ estimates were much higher, especially with rising commodity prices. Estimates for corn were just above 93.2 million acres, while soybean forecasts were closer to 89.9 million acres.

According to USDA’s Prospective Plantings survey, farmers intend to plant 91.1 million acres of corn. When compared to USDA’s February estimates, corn planted acres decreased by 900,000 acres. The Prospective Plantings report also indicates farmers intend to plant 300,000 more corn acres than in 2020, less than a 1% year-over-year increase. For 2021 soybeans, USDA estimates farmers intend to plant 87.6 million acres, 4.6 million more acres of soybeans than in 2020, an increase of 6%. However, the survey-based report indicates there are about 100,000 fewer acres that will be planted to soybeans than what was first estimated in February. Combined, USDA’s Prospective Plantings survey indicates farmers may plant 4.5 million acres fewer of corn and soybeans compared to earlier estimates, potentially leading to a further tightening of supply.

USDA’s estimate of 91.1 million acres of corn for the 2021/22 marketing year is close to the 90.8 million acres of corn planted in 2020 and the 89.7 million acres planted in 2019. Corn acreage is expected to be the highest in Iowa at 13.2 million acres, down 3% from 2020, when 13.6 million acres were planted. Keep in mind, this time last year, estimates for Iowa indicated 14.1 million acres were to be planted and actual numbers came in 3% lower. The second-largest state for intended corn acres is Illinois at 10.9 million acres, down 4% from 2020, followed by Nebraska with 9.9 million acres, down 3% from 2020. North Dakota is estimated to have the largest year-over-year change in planted corn acres with an estimated 3.3 million acres planted, up 69% from 2020, when 1.95 million acres were planted. Mississippi is the second-largest year-over-year increase of intended planted corn acres with 640,000 acres of corn, up 25% compared to 2020, when 510,000 acres were planted. The third-largest increase is expected in Louisiana with 610,000 acres of corn planted, up 22% from 2020, when 500,000 acres were planted. Figure 1 shows each state’s intended corn planted acreage and Figure 2 displays the year-over-year change in corn acres to be planted.

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