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March 28, 2002

Indiana, U.S. farmers expected to grow more corn this year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – America's premier crop stands to grab an even larger share of the nation's farm acres this spring.

Farmers intend to plant 79 million acres of corn but just 73 million acres of soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual prospective plantings report. The report, issued today (Thursday, 3/28), is based on surveys with the nation's growers.

The report provides interesting, and surprising, data, said Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.

"Nationally, we're going to see more corn acreage – an almost 4 percent increase," Hurt said. "That comes out to 3.3 million more corn acres, which is a little higher than the market expected. The compensating balance is fewer acres of soybeans will be planted than the market had anticipated. Farmers say they'll plant 1.1 million acres fewer in beans – down about 2 percent.

"Here in Indiana we're looking at similar kinds of shifts. Farmers intend to plant 6 million acres – up about 200,000 acres. Where's that coming from? From a reduction in soybeans, of course – a 200,000 acre drop, to 5.4 million acres."

Hoosier farmers produced 884.5 million bushels of corn and 273.9 million bushels of soybeans in 2001, both 9 percent above 2000 totals. Average yield per acre was a record 156 bushels for corn and 49 bushels for soybeans.

Hurt pointed to two reasons why U.S. farmers may move acres back into corn this spring: cheaper fertilizer and more favorable corn growing conditions in the Western Corn Belt.

"This year we've seen substantially lower nitrogen prices. Nitrogen is a major cost factor on corn," he said. "That is why I think we'll see substantially more corn acreage in the Eastern Corn Belt.

"Last spring was beautiful for getting corn planted in the Eastern Corn Belt. But out west, particularly in parts of Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota, the weather was not cooperative and planting was delayed. Farmers could not get as much corn in the ground."

The USDA report is likely to send soybean prices higher but leave corn prices flat, Hurt said.

"The numbers are a little friendly for soybeans," he said. "Certainly the reduction in the size of the planted acreage intended by producers, coupled with the very good utilization we've had and tightening stocks, means that when we put it all together we'll probably see higher prices on beans.

"The situation is a bit on the bearish side for corn, however. Corn continues to struggle in the export market, as far as usage is concerned. These USDA numbers suggest that not only will we have a sufficient carryover of corn through this summer, but also we'll be producing a 2002 crop pushing up around 10 billion bushels. That says there won't be much change in the prices we've seen the last couple of years."

Recent corn prices in Indiana have ranged from $1.90-$2.15 a bushel, with soybeans priced between $4.40 and $4.60 a bushel.

The prospective plantings report also indicated Indiana farmers will:

• Increase acres of genetically modified corn and soybean varieties. Producers said they expect to boost biotech corn acres by 4 percent. If it holds true, 16 percent of the state corn crop will be biotech. About 83 percent of the state's soybean acres are projected to be biotech this year.

• Harvest 25 percent more acres of oats, the same acreage of tobacco and 5 percent fewer acres of hay. USDA estimates project oat harvest at 16,000 acres, tobacco at 4,200 acres and hay at 580,000 acres.

• Grow fewer acres of winter wheat – 350,000 – than were harvested last year. The 380,000 acres harvested in 2001 was a state record low.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415; sleer@aes.purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Related Web site:
U.S. Department of Agriculture Prospective Plantings Report

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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