“Gobsmacker”—that’s how a University of Illinois Agricultural Economist described Friday’s USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service planted acreage report. Suffice it to say, the report confounded many market observers.
Nationally, the USDA estimated producers had planted 80 million acres of soybeans and 91.7 million acres of corn, 2.6 million corn acres above that planted last year. In Nebraska, the USDA estimated farmers had planted 10 million acres of corn, 4 percent more than planted last year and 300,000 acres more than the planting intentions report released in March. It was also estimated Nebraska producers planted 5.0 million acres of soybeans, down 12 percent from a year ago and less than indicated in the planting intentions report.
The estimate of corn acres planted nationwide was considerably higher than the average trade guess of 86.6 million acres. It was also higher than the figure contained in the latest World Agricultural and Supply Estimates (WASDE) report. The discrepancy was enough for people to question how the numbers released Friday were possible, especially with the difficulty producers faced in getting the crop in the ground this year. One possible explanation concerns the timing of the USDA planted acreage survey. The planted acreage survey was conducted in early June. At the time, 17 percent of the corn and 41 percent of the soybeans remained unplanted, a level of unplanted acres well above normal. So, farmers faced an unusual degree of planting uncertainty when completing the survey this year. Many acres could have been left unplanted or acres shifted between crops since the survey was conducted. Another possible explanation is that farmers could have been incented to plant more acres to corn, and less to soybeans, than the market expected given the price movements in recent weeks. In either case, because of the large level of uncertainty in the numbers, USDA has said it will re-survey producers in 14 Midwestern states, including Nebraska, to include in the crop production numbers released in August. This will heighten the interest level in the August report.
Finishing up with Nebraska crop numbers—total crop acres planted in Nebraska were estimated at 19.2 million acres, down nearly 600,000 acres from last year. Alfalfa acres were estimated higher, sorghum acres unchanged, and oats and sugarbeets were lower compared to last year. Winter wheat acres in the state continued to decline with an estimated 1.07 million acres of winter wheat were planted last fall, a record low. Planted wheat acres declined 3 percent compared to last year.