Record crops and low prices have farmers embracing change in 2015, with acreage shifts continuing to move fields from corn to soybeans, according to the latest Farm Futures survey.
"Potential for big surprises in the Jan. 12 USDA reports could put even more ground into play," says Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior market analyst.
The magazine's final survey of 2014 shows smaller corn and soybean crops due mostly to lower than previously reported acreage. Farmers harvested 14.197 billion bushels of corn in 2014, a record, but down 210 million from USDA's last estimate. Farmers reported harvesting more than 1 million acres less than the government currently estimates. Yields should be down a little as well, falling to 173 bushels per acre (bpa), 0.4 bpa less than USDA's last projection.
The survey showed a similar trend in soybeans. While total production was a record 3.844 billion bushels, that was 114 million less than USDA's estimate. Farm Futures put soybean harvested acreage down 1.3 million, with the yield at 46.8 bpa, compared to USDA's 47.5 bpa.
"Coupled with strong demand, especially for soybeans, the reduction in production should convince USDA to lower its estimate of 2014 crop ending stocks," says Knorr, who conducted the research. "That could trigger rallies as farmers finalize planting choices for this spring."
Farm Futures first survey of 2015 planting intentions conducted late last summer showed growers ready for a massive move into soybeans, which appeared more profitable than corn at the time. That advantage receded during the post-harvest rally, but farmers said they still want to boost their bean seedings this spring at the expense of corn.
"Our latest survey found growers ready to put in even more soybeans," says Knorr. That's 88.3 million acres in all, almost 5% more than USDA currently forecasts for 2014 and nearly 2% more than the August Farm Futures survey found. Some of the additional ground would come from corn, where plantings could fall to 88.5 million, down 2.2% from Farm Futures August estimate and 2.6% less than USDA's current estimate for 2014.
USDA reports its first estimate of winter wheat seedings Jan.12, with significant changes likely for that crop too. Farm Futures puts total winter wheat seedings at 42.6 million, down 2.3% from August but up .6% from 2014.
"Farmers in the eastern Midwest seeded less soft red winter wheat due to the late fall harvest," says Knorr. While USDA won't report planting intentions for spring crops until March 31, Farm Futures' survey found farmers ready to increase seedings of both spring wheat and durum. That would boost total wheat acreage to 57.6 million, up 1.4% from 2014.
"Growers have even more flexibility this spring with planting choices because less fertilizer was applied last fall than normal," Knorr says. "Farmers told us they put down 5% less nitrogen than normal, and applications of phosphates and potash were 6% to 7% lower."
Farm Futures surveyed more than 1,650 farmers by email Dec. 17 - Jan. 3. Results were reported at the opening of the 9th annual Farm Futures Business Summit in St. Louis.