Intended corn plantings largest since 1944

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — U.S. farmers intend to plant 90,454,000 acres of corn this year, which if realized would be the most area planted to corn since 95,475,000 acres in 1944, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its March 30 Prospective Plantings report.

All wheat area was up from a year ago, due to a large increase in winter wheat that was planted last fall, while spring wheat area was down. Intended area for soybeans and most other oilseeds, cotton, dry edible beans and sugar beets were all down from 2006 plantings as well.

Intended corn plantings were up 15% from 78,327,000 acres planted in 2006 and were well above average pre-report trade expectations of 88.1 million acres.

"Expected acreage is up in nearly all states as favorable corn prices, caused by increased demand from ethanol producers and strong export sales, are encouraging farmers to plant more acres to corn," the U.S.D.A. said. Growers in Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota intend to plant record high area to corn.

Growers plan to plant 67,140,000 acres of soybeans in 2007, down 11% from 75,522,000 acres planted last year. If realized, soybean area would be the smallest since 64,195,000 acres were planted in 1996. Intended plantings were well below average trade expectations of 69.2 million acres.

"Acreage declines are expected in all growing areas except in New York and the Southeast," the U.S.D.A. said. "Many growers intend to plant more corn instead of soybeans as ethanol expansion is increasing demand for corn."

In the Southeast, farmers intend to plant 20% less cotton than a year ago, replacing that crop with corn and soybeans. A large decrease in soybean area was expected across the Corn Belt.

Plantings of spring wheat other than durum were expected to be 13,808,000 acres, down 7% from 14,899,000 acres in 2006. Of the total, about 13.3 million acres would be hard red spring wheat. The largest decreases will be in the Dakotas and Montana, the U.S.D.A. said.

Durum wheat seeding intentions were 1,990,000 acres, up 6% from 1,870,000 acres planted in 2006. Durum area was expected to be up in all producing states except Montana, where growers were expected to switch acres to pulse crops, the U.S.D.A. said.

Winter wheat area was estimated at 44,505,000 acres, up 1% from the January Winter Wheat Seedings report and up 10% from a year earlier. Of the total, about 31.9 million acres will be hard red winter, 8.66 million soft red winter and 3.92 million white winter.

All wheat area was expected to be 60,303,000 acres, up 5% from 57,344,000 acres seeded in 2006.

Intended area seeded to oats was expected to be 4,029,000 acres, down 3% from 4,168,000 acres in 2006. Sorghum intended area was 7,109,000 acres, up 9% from 6,522,000 acres last year.

"With corn use shifting to ethanol production, the expected sorghum increase in Texas is driven by higher grain prices and increased demand for grain sorghum as feed," the U.S.D.A. said.

Area intended for rice was estimated at 2,644,000 acres, down 7% from 2,838,000 acres in 2006. If realized it would be the lowest planted area for rice since 1987.

Peanut planting intentions were 1,197,000 acres, down 4% from 1,243,000 acres last year and the lowest since 1915. Plantings in Georgia were expected to be down 14% as growers switch to corn and soybeans, the U.S.D.A. said.

Growers said they intend to plant 1,294,700 acres of sugar beets in 2007, down 5% from 1,366,700 acres in 2006. Intended plantings were down in every state except Washington, which was unchanged. If realized, plantings in California would be the lowest on record.

Plantings of dry edible beans were expected to be 1,504,500 acres, down 8% from 1,629,800 acres in 2006. Decreased area may be attributed to strong prices for competitive crops, the U.S.D.A. said.

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