March 30, 2012

Nebraska corn farmers investing nearly $3B to plant 10.3 million acres

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Corn farmers in Nebraska intend to plant 10.3 million acres of corn this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's prospective plantings report released this morning.

The Nebraska Corn Board, using estimates from by the University of Nebraska, said in a news release that takes about $270 per acre in crop inputs to get the corn crop planted and off to a good start, meaning Nebraska corn farmers will invest some $2.8 billion this spring. That figure does not include land costs, labor or equipment – it’s purely inputs like seed and fertilizer.

“Farmers make this multi-billion dollar investment every spring in the hope of producing more corn per acre, as they strive to get better every year,” Kelly Brunkhorst, the Nebraska Corn Board’s director of research, said in the release. “USDA’s planting intention numbers today, if realized; show how farmers respond to market signals with the investment necessary to meet demand.”

Good prices are the market signal for more corn acres, yet planting numbers can change depending on springtime weather. Last year’s March estimate, for example, was 9.5 million acres, which was later revised to 10.0 million. In the end, though, Nebraska farmers actually planted 9.85 million. The decrease from upward revision came due to weather conditions that prevented planting.

Still, last year’s 9.85 million acres was the largest since the 1930s in Nebraska – and farmers intend to top that by 450,000 this year. Time will tell if that forecast holds true.

Nationally, USDA said farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres this year. That's up 4 percent from last year’s 91.9 million planted acres. If realized it will be the most planted acres in the United States since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.

The figure is also 1.9 million million acres more than what USDA used at its annual outlook forum earlier this year and 1.5 million more than the average estimates put out by analysts ahead of the report.

Good early spring weather has allowed some farmers in the Midwest to finish field work and begin planting. Brunkhorst said, however, that most farmers in Nebraska will hold off on planting until mid-April because crop insurance coverage doesn’t take effect until then and there’s still the risk of frost.

Historically in Nebraska, farmers begin planting in mid-April and wrap up as quickly as possible in May.

Other Nebraska crops planting intentions:
  • Sorghum: 165,000 acres, up 10 percent from last year
  • Dry edible beans: 155,000 acres, up 41 percent
  • Oats: 75,000 acres, up 25 percent
  • Soybeans: 4.7 million acres, down 4 percent
  • All wheat: 1.4 million acres, down 11 percent
  • Sugarbeet: 50,000 acres, down 4 percent
  • All hay: 2.4 million acres, down 3 percent
  • All sunflower: 50,000 acres, down 15 percent

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