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February 27, 2019

Spring Weather could Impact 2019 Corn and Soy Acreage in U.S.

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

During their annual Outlook Meeting last week in Washington, the USDA estimated that the 2019 U.S. corn acreage would increase 2.9 million acres from 89.1 million in 2018 to 92.0 million in 2019. They also forecasted a nationwide corn yield of 176.0 bushels per acre.

For soybeans, they estimated that the 2019 U.S. soybean acreage would decline 4.2 million acres from 89.2 million in 2018 to 85.0 million in 2019. They also forecasted a nationwide soybean yield of 49.5 bushels per acre.

My initial impression was that they may have been overly aggressive in reducing the soybean acreage by 4.2 million acres. The acreage mix in the U.S. can be influenced by the spring weather. The weather pattern could change going forward, but as of now, it does not look like we are going to have an early spring in the U.S. Below are some of the reasons why it might be a late spring and the potential implications for the U.S. crop acreage.

  • Heavy snow over the weekend increased the snowpack over the northern Corn Belt with many locations receiving record high snowfall for the month of February.
  • Temperatures during at least the first half of March are forecasted to be below normal, so not much of that snowpack is going to melt any time soon.
  • When the snow does melt, there is a high probability of flooding along the rivers in the northern Corn Belt.
  • It is possible that the Red River Valley in North Dakota could experience significant flooding.
  • Even outside of any potentially flooded areas, the cold and wet conditions are going to result in saturated soils that will be slow to dry out and warm up.
  • A limited amount of fieldwork was performed last fall due to the wet weather, so that could slow down the early planting. Fall fertilizer applications were also limited.
  • Heavy rains and saturated conditions in the southern U.S. could slow the early planting there as well.
  • Corn is always the first crop planted, so if we do end up with a cold and wet spring, it could result in fewer corn acres than anticipated and more soybean acres.
  • Additionally, if you combine the three main crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat, the USDA is forecasting several million less acres than last year. The question is will those acres eventually be planted to something, or will they remain unplanted?
  • A real "wild card" could be what happens with the trade negotiations between the U.S. and China over next 60 days. If they reach an agreement and China starts to purchase significant amounts of U.S. soybeans, which would support soybean prices.
  • There are persistent rumors that China may start to purchase some U.S. corn, but at this point, those are just rumors.
  • In my opinion (for what it is worth), the U.S. corn acreage may not increase as much as anticipated and the U.S. soybean acreage may not decline as much as anticipated.
  • U.S. farmers may stay closer to their regular rotations and only make acreage adjustments at the last minute.