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Farmers' planting plans not all set in stone

Agriculture.com Staff 02/27/2009 @ 9:15am

An informal survey of farmers attending the Commodity Classic this week in Grapevine, Texas, suggests that farmers still could pivot away from their current planting plans, though most won't likely stray too far from time-tested practices.

In an Agriculture Online poll, more than half of growers say they could be influenced by market prices to make changes in their crop mixes. About 25% said weather could be the big factor in planting changes.

"We might grow a few more soybeans," says Harv Jipping, Hamilton, Michigan, who grows corn, beans and wheat in the western part of the state. "Nitrogen prices have come down, but haven't come down enough," he said. Jipping also has his eye on the markets. "If the corn market takes us back to $4, that would make a big difference," he said. "Still I won't make the final decision until about the time the seed goes in the ground."

Talking with Jipping was a fellow farmer from halfway across the country, Jody Bellah, Throckmorton, Texas. Bellah's north Texas wheat and cattle operation has received only one measurable rain since October, so obviously weather has the upper hand in any management changes on his place. "We're dry, seriously dry," he said. "We just hope and pray that will change soon."

North Dakotan Brad Thykeson, says his corn (40%), soybean (50%), and wheat (10%) rotation is firmly set. "I don't think we'll deviate from what we normally do," he said. But, he admits that, as always, the weather could come into play. "Excess moisture this spring would take us to more beans and less corn."

Johnny Dodson, president of the American Soybean Association and a Tennessee grower, says the forecast for higher bean production "could change significantly at the last minute, just before the seed is put in the ground." Dodson believes some 5 to 10 percent of U.S. soybean acreage is still in play, and that the final mix "will depend on a number of factors."

"There's this battle for acres every year," says Gerald Simonsen, a Nebraska grain producer and vice chairman of the National Sorghum Producers. "Most farmers in my area are pretty well committed to what they're doing. People in the end mostly stick to their plans."

"I plan three to five years out in my rotations," he says. "Weather and markets are secondary, but they do drive my long-term planning," Simonsen says.

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An informal survey of farmers attending the Commodity Classic this week in Grapevine, Texas, suggests that farmers still could pivot away from their current planting plans, though most won't likely stray too far from time-tested practices.

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