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Corn acres dodging 2012 drought areas

Jeff Caldwell 04/03/2013 @ 7:24am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

This year's corn acres are seemingly dodging the areas where drought hit farmers hardest in 2012, according to one expert's analysis of last week's USDA Prospective Plantings report.

The federal agency's estimate of 2013 corn acres was up just slightly -- by 200,000 acres -- over last year. But, within a total of over 97 million, that's basically a wash, says University of Illinois Extension ag economist Gary Schnitkey. What's not a wash, though, is the churn in that projected acreage. Some areas will see substantial shifts in acres, and there's a pretty clear correlation between last year's drought and this year's plantings.

"It is interesting to note that corn acreage is projected to decrease in states where the 2012 drought was the worst. In other corn-producing areas where the drought had less of an impact on yields, corn acres are projected to remain the same or increase," Schnitkey says. "The drought areas experienced adverse conditions leading to larger corn-after-corn yield drags. It will be interesting to see if Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota experience corn-after-corn yield drags when more adverse years occur, leading to reduced corn areas."

Those latter states are among those expected to either maintain last year's acres (in Iowa's case) or expand; North Dakota farmers are expected to plant 500,000 more corn acres this year and Minnesota's expected to see 250,000 more acres.

On the other side of the spectrum, these states are expected to see the following declines in corn acreage:

  • Illinois: -600,000
  • Missouri: -200,000
  • Indiana: -150,000
  • Kansas: -100,000
  • Kentucky: -50,000

Wheat and soybeans will pick up the slack; Schnitkey says his state of Illinois will see 350,000 more soybean acres and 170,000 more wheat acres this year. But, that's far from unexpected for the economist.

"In recent years, increases in corn acres in Illinois have slowed. Illinois planted corn acres have been 12 million acres or above since 2006, with a high since 2006 of 13.2 million acres in 2007. Since 2006, corn acres have varied but have not exhibited a trend up or down," Schnitkey says. "The 12.8 million acres in 2012 was the highest since the 13.2 million in 2007. Whether the 2013 projected decline continues into future years remains to be seen, likely depending on relative yields in 2013 and beyond."

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