Will farmers increase corn and soybean acres? That depends on how much longer it stays cold and snowy.
The 2023 U.S. Agriculture Department planting intentions survey gives a glimpse into what farmers were planning to put in their fields if weather hadn't become a deciding factor.
The 2023 U.S. Agriculture Department planting intentions survey, taken during the first two weeks of March, gives a glimpse into what farmers were planning to put in their fields — if weather didn’t become a deciding factor.
As northern Plains farmers know, the longer the cold temperatures and snow hang on this spring, the more their 2023 planting intentions could change.
The March 31 planting intentions report , based on a survey of about 73,000 farmers, estimated that they will increase their corn and soybean acres and reduce spring wheat and barley acres.
USDA pegged 2023 corn acreage in Minnesota at 8.4 million, about 4% more than the 8 million they planted in 2022. In South Dakota, farmers are expected to plant an estimated 5.9 million acres, which is 3% more than the 5.75 million they planted last year. North Dakota corn acreage is estimated at 3.75 million acres or 27% higher than the 2.95 million acres farmers planted in 2023.
Nationwide, farmers are forecast to plant a total of 92 million acres of corn, 4% or 3.4 million acres more than in 2022, USDA estimated.
The strength of the corn market post-planting intentions and grain stocks reports on March 31, 2023, was an indication that the trade was taking into account that weather conditions could impact how much corn farmers will plant, said Chad Hart, Iowa State University Extension grain marketing specialist.
“If you were just going to look at these reports, corn should be bearish,” Hart said on March 31. Traders know that the weather will need to turn around to allow the amount of corn that is forecast to be planted, he said.
“We’re dealing with snowpack and cool and wet conditions, and it will be awhile before folks along the northern tier can plant,” Hart said.
The planting situation in Iowa, the No. 1 U.S. corn production state, is a mixed bag, he said. For example, in the far northwest corner of the state, conditions are similar to the snow and cold that are common in states further north and west of there. However, in Ames, Iowa, in the central part of the state, the snow had melted and the temperature was in the 70s on March 31, Hart said.
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“We’re sort of in a really good spot right now,” he said.
While the total U.S. corn estimate in the March 31 report was similar to what Hart had been expecting, based on his conversations with farmers over the past few months, he was surprised by the soybeans estimate.
He, like others watching the U.S. soybean market, had expected the total acreage of soybeans to be higher than the 87.5 million that USDA estimated in the March 31 report. He and some other analysts hadn’t expected a decline in the number of soybean acres in Arkansas. USDA estimated Arkansas farmers would decrease their acreage by 4% from last year to 3 million.
In North Dakota, the agency estimates soybean acreage will rise significantly to 6.6 million in 2023, a 15% or nearly 1 million acreage increase over last year. In Minnesota, farmers are expected to increase acreage slightly to 7.6 million over last year, and in South Dakota, 2023 acreage is expected to increase by 4% or 200,000 over last year to 5.3 million.
While total U.S. wheat acreage is estimated to increase by 9% over 2022 to 49.9 million acres this year, spring wheat acres are estimated to decline by 2% to 10.6 million acres. Last year, U.S. farmers planted a total of 10.8 million spring wheat acres.
North Dakota farmers plan to reduce their spring wheat acres by 2% or 100,000 acres from a year ago to 5.2 million, and Minnesota farmers plan to plant 1.2 million acres. South Dakota farmers are expected to plant 730,000 acres of spring wheat, the same number they planted last year, USDA said.
Jim Peterson, North Dakota Wheat Commission marketing and policy director, wasn’t surprised by the estimated decline in U.S. spring wheat acres because the market was under pressure at the time the survey was taken. During the first two weeks in March, when the survey was taken, there were sharp sell-offs, resulting in a decline in Minneapolis futures, Peterson said.
Generally, over the past several years, spring wheat acres have declined as farmers in the northern Plains have planted more soybeans, canola and corn. In southwestern North Dakota, sunflowers also have competed for wheat acres, Peterson said.
Delayed spring planting could affect the amount of wheat that farmers will plant. Whether that amount will decrease or increase depends on whether there is prevented planting, which could lower not only spring wheat, but also corn and soybean acres in the northern Plains.
Delayed planting could result in higher-than-estimated spring wheat acres in Montana if prices rally over those concerns. On March 31, 2023, USDA estimated the state’s spring wheat acres at 10.6 million acres, down 2% from 2022. Montana durum acreage, however, is estimated at 1.78 million, 9% higher than in 2022.
Northern Plains barley acreage, like spring wheat, is expected to drop this year as crop production continues to shift further west.
USDA estimates North Dakota barley acreage at 610,000; Minnesota at 55,000; and South Dakota at 25,000, declines of 18%, 15% and 11% respectively. Montana acreage is estimated at 1.09 million, an increase of 60,000 acres over last year. If the estimates are accurate, that would be the state’s largest amount of barley acreage in 20 years.
This year’s total U.S. barley acreage is expected to be 2.9 million, similar to 2022.