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Survey sees more corn and bean acres this spring

ST. CHARLES – U.S. farmers are ready to increase production of corn and soybeans for 2013, according to the latest Farm Futures survey.

The magazine's survey of more than 1,750 growers found farmers ready to plant 97.43 million acres of corn, up .3 percent from 2012. If achieved, the total would be the most since 1936.

The increase in soybeans could be even more dramatic. Farmers said they want to plant 79.09 million acres this spring, up 2.5 percent from 2012 and easily an all-time record if achieved.

"With stocks of both corn and soybeans projected near historic lows, strong acreage this spring is a must to rebuild inventories," said Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, who conducted the research. "Spring weather could still change these numbers significantly, and prices will be important, too. Some 18 percent of those surveyed said they could still shift 50 percent or more of their acres."

Indeed, prices have already caused major adjustments in farmer planting plans since Farm Futures first surveyed growers in August. Back then, farmers were reluctant to increase corn acreage, with many feeling continuous corn exacerbated damage from the historic 2012 drought. But high prices helped lure growers back to corn in the magazine's January survey, which showed similar numbers to the latest tally. However, while farmers in the eastern Corn Belt and South boosted corn prospects, farmers to the west plan fewer acres. Instead, they're preparing a strong increase in soybean plantings this spring with average acres in the region up 10 percent or more.

Farm Futures Market Analyst Paul Burgener said the survey found farmers overall hoping to put in 2.5 million more acres of corn, soybeans and wheat this spring.

"The increased acres have to come from somewhere," Burgener said. "Hay stocks are very low, and grassland will be at a premium; so this shift could have a bigger impact than usual if many of these are historic grassland acres."

USDA released its annual estimate of prospective plantings on March 28. While those numbers usually draw the big headlines, they could be overshadowed this year by the agency's estimate of March 1 grain stocks. Farm Futures showed inventory of corn and soybeans stored on farm is down dramatically due to the drought: Corn stocks are just 68.1 percent of last year, while soybeans are 77.9 percent of those seen in 2012.

"March on-farm corn stocks could be at their lowest level since 1996," Burgener said. "Feed and ethanol use continues to pull the crop out of bins and into the pipeline even though exports have been limited."

Farm Futures surveyed more than 1,750 growers by email March 5 to March 19.

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