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Agriculture

January 8, 2013

Farmers grew less corn in 2012 than expected

ST. LOUIS — After three disappointing corn crops in a row, good yields in 2013 will be essential to rebuilding inventories, according to the latest Farm Futures magazine survey.

The extent of that effort takes shape in coming weeks, beginning with USDA's Jan. 11 estimates of 2012 production. The Farm Futures survey showed growers raised 10.62 billion bushels of corn on harvested acreage of 87.5 million and nationwide yields of 121.3 bpa. USDA's November estimate put the crop at 10.725 billion bushels.

Results of the survey were released today at the opening day of the annual Farm Futures Business Summit in St. Louis, attended by more than 400 producers.

"Based on our survey of more than 1,550 growers and the government's own certified acreage data from the Farm Service Agency, it appears production should be lower than previous estimates, said Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, who conducted the research. "This makes good yields and large acreage crucial in 2013 to provide the corn needed by end users in the U.S. and around the world."

Attractive profit margins should convince growers to increase plantings this spring. Producers told Farm Futures they intend to boost corn seedings to 97.75 million in 2013, a little less than 1 percent more than in 2012.

"While the planting intentions we found were not as big as some predict, it was a substantial increase from our first survey in August, which projected 93 million acres," said Farm Futures Market Analyst Paul Burgener. "The reality of another year with outstanding returns for corn convinced many growers to try more corn on corn, despite their long-term desire to return to more balanced rotations with soybeans."

As a result, the latest survey finds farmers plan to put in 76.84 million acres of soybeans. That would be a little less than the 77.2 million USDA last estimated for 2012, though more than the 76.1 million farmers responding to the survey said they put in last spring. Farm Futures estimate of 2012 production is 2.969 billion, only a few thousand bushels lower than USDA's November projection.

"In August, our survey showed farmers ready to splurge on soybeans, increasing 2013 plantings to 78 million acres," said Knorr. "But soybeans were trading well over $16 a bushel at the time. With new crop prices substantially lower, farmers are again focusing on total returns, giving corn the edge."

USDA issues its first survey-based forecast of 2013 spring crop planting intentions at the end of March, with a preliminary estimate put out in February at its annual outlook forum. The agency will release a survey-based estimate of winter wheat seedings January 11. Farm Futures found growers planted 42.1 million acres of winter wheat in the fall, up 1.8 percent, with total wheat seedings for 2013 put at 57.16 million, up 2.5 percent.

Burgener noted the latest winter wheat estimate was down 1 million from the magazine's August survey. "While soft red winter wheat plans were unchanged, dry conditions on the Plains caused hard red winter wheat growers to cut seedings by 800,000 acres from initial intentions," Burgener said. "Those fields could wind up in corn, milo, cotton, millet, sunflowers, or soybeans depending on winter and spring moisture, another wild card the market must consider."

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