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Market encourages acreage shift in 2017

Though farmers have shown a preference for corn historically, red ink may trim plantings to only 93.1 million acres next spring. That would be down around 1 million from 2016, when they boosted plantings 7 percent.

Strong demand and profitable hedging opportunities on this year’s crop may convince farmers to boost their soybean acreage again next year, according to Farm Futures first survey of 2017 planting intentions.

Results of the annual survey, typically the first in the industry, were released Aug. 30, the opening day of the Farm Progress Show, held this year near Boone, Iowa.

Growers said they are considering devoting a record 84.4 million acres to the oilseed, up almost 1 percent from 2016. But at the same time, they plan to put in less corn and wheat.

Though farmers have shown a preference for corn historically, red ink may trim plantings to only 93.1 million acres next spring. That would be down around 1 million from 2016, when they boosted plantings 7 percent.

Wheat lower?

Wheat seedings could be lower for the fourth consecutive year, in a market beset by low prices. Producers said they were ready to plant 49.1 million acres, down 3.4 percent, which would be the lowest total since 1970.

Most of the cutback would come in hard red winter wheat sown on the central and southern Plains, which had very good yields in 2016, and very weak cash prices as a result. Hard red winter wheat seedings could fall nearly 1.4 million, to 25.1 million.

Soft red winter wheat could also be down, losing 2.7 percent to 6.4 million.

But growers in the Pacific Northwest could be ready to boost white wheat planting modestly if conditions allow.

On the northern Plains, spring wheat ground could fall nearly 2 percent to 11.9 million, with durum down slightly after an increase in 2016.

Cotton up slightly

Two other crops besides soybeans could pull a little acreage away from wheat and corn. Growers said they want to boost cotton plantings about 0.5 percent to 10.1 million. Sorghum ground could also be up less than 1 percent to 7.3 million.

The survey queried 1,225 growers from around the U.S. during late July and early August. Producers were invited by email to fill out an online survey about their planting plans.

With harvest of 2016 crops barely under way, much obviously could change by the time planters start rolling.

Farmers show a tendency to base planting decisions on what worked the previous year, and soybeans were profitable for growers able to take advantage of hedging opportunities this summer.

Strong buying from China also provides a much better fundamental underpinning for the market compared to corn and wheat, which lack demand drivers.

The ratio of new crop soybean to corn futures favors soybeans, though prices for both crops are well below break-even levels.

Another factor to watch is moisture for seeding winter wheat. Above average rainfall is forecast over the central Plains into September, which could convince more farmers to plant wheat, hoping to double-crop soybeans behind it.

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