Agricultural futures markets’ attention this week will be riveted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report to be issued March 30. The report is based on a survey of producers conducted mostly during the first two weeks of March by the U.S.D.A.’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. It is meant to reflect growers’ planting intentions for the spring. Corn, soybean and wheat markets have vied for the attention of growers for the past several weeks attempting to “buy acres,” and it was expected corn and wheat will be the clear winners. At the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in February, the U.S.D.A. preliminarily forecast all-wheat plantings for 2012 at 58 million acres, up 3.6 million acres from 2011, corn plantings at 94 million acres, up 2.1 million acres from 2011 and the most since 1944, and soybean plantings at 75 million acres, unchanged from 2011. More recently, Paul Meyers, vice-president, commodity analysis, Foresight Commodity Services, Inc., speaking March 13 at the annual meeting of the Soft Wheat Division of the North American Millers’ Association, forecast corn plantings this year at 95 million acres, wheat plantings at 58.4 million acres and soybean seedings at 76 million acres.
Certainly, market developments between the survey and actual planting time may encourage some producers to change their minds with regard to what to plant, but most will have cast their die. Weather plays a great role in whether what growers intend to plant is actually seeded. Last March, producers indicated they intended to plant 2,365,000 acres to durum and 14,427,000 acres to spring wheat other than durum. But because of excessively wet conditions across the northern Plains last spring, only 1,369,000 acres of durum and 12,394,000 acres of other-spring wheat were actually planted.