MARCH 31 CROP REPORT

On March 31, 2005, USDA released it’s “Prospective Plantings Report” and it’s “Quarterly Grain Stocks Report”. Typically, these late March USDA Reports are very critical to farm operators and grain traders because these reports tend to have a high impact on grain market prices in the spring and early summer. This is the time of the year when many farm operators try to sell remaining grain inventories from the previous growing season, as well as look for opportunities to forward price a portion of the anticipated crop for the current year. In a majority of years, corn and soybean prices usually reach their peak price for a calendar year sometime between April 1 and July 15.

Following are the key items from the March 31st Reports ……

Corn --- Indicated corn planting acres of 81.4 million acres in 2005, which is below the average trade estimate of 82.3 million acres, but up from 80.9 million acres in 2004. The corn stocks were listed at 6.75 billion bushels, which is up considerably from stocks of 5.27 billion bushels in March 1, 2004.

Soybeans --- Indicated soybean planting acres of 73.9 million acres in 2005, which is slightly above the average trade estimate of 73.5 million acres, but considerably below the 75.2 million acres of soybeans planted in 2004. Soybean stocks were listed at 138 billion bushels, which compares to 994 million bushels in March 1, 2004.

Wheat --- Indicated total wheat plantings for 2005 of 58.6 million acres, which is down from 59.7 million acres in 2004. The wheat stocks were listed at 981 million bushels, which compares to 1.02 billion bushels on March 1, 2004.

Overall, there were no big surprises in the March 31 USDA Reports and the grain markets have not shown much reaction in the first few days since the Reports. Most grain market movement in the past couple of weeks continues to relate primarily to “fund trading” rather than other market fundamentals. This may change as we head into planting season.

Editors note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.