Nailing down how many acres you'll plant to corn and soybeans this spring is a bit of a crapshoot. In fact, Chad Hart, Iowa State University ag economist, says: “It's definitely going to be a horse race between corn and soybeans for more production acres.”
Still, it seems pretty clear that with soybeans at the $12/bu. mark, farmers won't be planting as many acres of corn as they did last year.
At press time, Brock Associates forecast planted corn at 90 million acres for 2008 and soybeans at 69 million acres. Purdue University almost mirrors those numbers. Last year, U.S. farmers planted 93.6 million acres of corn (up 19% from 2006) and 63.6 million acres of soybeans (down 16% from 2006).
Some industry insiders, however, peg corn planted to be down around 88 million acres and soybeans up to 71 million acres.
THAT LEFT US scratching our heads. So in mid-January, we conducted an online survey of Corn & Soybean Digest readers and found that 85% of growers say their soybean acreage this year would equal or exceed their 2007 acres. In addition, the survey shows that 23.5% of those increasing their acres intend to step up acres by up to 10%; 13.5% of these intend to increase bean acres by more than 50%. That's sizeable. Of those online readers, 35.1% say they'll decrease their corn acres this year.
According to the survey, the two main reasons farmers say they're going back to more soybeans are because they need more crop rotation (55%) and because of higher input costs, especially fertilizer (34.9%).
For example, Moe Russell, this magazine's risk management columnist, points out that input costs for corn have almost doubled for some of his clients. In fact, one of his clients claims he'll pay as much to grow 3,600 acres of corn in 2008 as he did to grow 5,600 acres in 2007.
Others in the survey say their reasons for not planting more corn are:
- “I like to diversify. It spreadsout labor and profit potential.”
- “Bean prices are better.”
- “Irrigation issues with utility costs and water availability.”
- “Our ground isn't top corn ground.”
TO READ ABOUT the move to more beans in 2008, see the story on pages 8-12 called “Beans Battle Back.” In it, you'll also get a snapshot of what five different farmers are planning to plant this spring, from putting every acre on the farm into soybeans to slightly increasing their corn acres.
If you haven't already locked in your planting intentions, take a look at the three factors Moe Russell says you should consider first on page 12.
Regardless, planters will be running soon. I can't wait to see what you've decided — and good luck.