USDA Planting Intentions

The next set of eagerly awaited data from the USDA is the prospective plantings report due for release on 31st March.

At a Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago yesterday, analysts compared notes to come up with some ideas as to what US farmers are currently looking at planting this spring.

They pegged prospective corn plantings at 89.3-91.0 million acres and soybean sowings at 76.5-78.7 million acres. Let's take the middle ground and use 90.15 million for corn and 77.6 million for soybeans.

That equates to a 3.65 million acre, or 4.2%, increase in corn and a marginal 100,000 acre increase for soybeans.

That's around a million acres more corn and half a million more soybeans than February's USDA Outlook Forum estimated. That pegged the 2010 US corn acreage at 89 million acres, whilst the soybean area was seen falling half a million to 77 million acres.

It is also worth remembering that the Outlook Forum predicted a return to "normal" yields, with corn producing 160.9 bu/acre (2.4% down from 164.9 bu/acre in 2009) and soybean yields coming in at 42.9 bu/acre (2.5% down from 44 bu/acre in 2009).

Making adjustments for unharvested acres, the bare bones of those averages seems to suggest a small increase in US corn production for 2010 and a modest decrease in soybean output.

Of course it's very early days yet, and even when we have the March 31st numbers they are only the USDA's perception of what US farmers intend to plant.

If the current extreme wetness in many parts of the Upper Midwest continues then the obvious conclusion is that maybe all of those intended corn acres won't get in, and most of those lost acres will end up as soybeans.