Economic Tidbits

How Do 2023 Acres Compare?

The release of this year’s planted acres raises the question of how the numbers measure up historically. Figure 2 plots planted acres for Nebraska’s three major crops—corn, soybeans, and wheat—since 2002. Corn acres, while fewer this year, continue to hover just under 10 million acres and corn remains firmly ensconced as the state’s top crop. Soybean acres in 2023, while fewer compared to the high mark of 5.7 million acres planted in 2017 and 2018, also remain near the all-time high and is Nebraska’s second-most planted crop. Corn acres have increased 14 percent since 2002 while soybean acres increased 22 percent. Wheat acres have rebounded off record lows of a few years ago but are nearly 50 percent below acres planted in the early 2000s. 

FIGURE 2. PLANTED ACRES IN NEBRASKA, 2002-2023

Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

Figure 3 shows planted acres for the same crops over the same period for the U.S. Like Nebraska, corn is typically the nation’s top crop and soybeans are the second-most planted crop. The exception was in 2018 when acres planted to soybeans exceeded corn. Soybean acres have never exceeded those planted to corn in Nebraska. Planted acres to soybeans in the U.S. grew by 18 percent between 2002-2022, while corn acres grew 12 percent. While acres planted to both crops increased, the growth has not been steady. For example, soybean acres declined sharply in 2007 and corn acres increased due to the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The boost in the demand for ethanol created by the RFS increased the profitability of growing corn relative to soybeans resulting in more acres in corn. The same acreage changes occurred in Nebraska (Figure 1). Soybean acres also experienced a large decline in 2019 due to flooding and wet conditions. Wheat acres nationally have declined over time.

FIGURE 3. U.S. PLANTED ACRES, 2002-2022

Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Crop Production publication.

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