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Corn acres highest since '36 - USDA

06/28/2013 @ 11:14am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday forecast the amount of land on which farmers planted corn this year rose to the highest level in nearly eight decades despite delays to fieldwork caused by cold and wet weather.

Farmers planted an estimated 97.4 million acres of corn, up slightly from last year, the USDA said. That was ahead of expectations. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires on average had forecast 95.34 million acres of corn planted.

Agricultural producers were slow to plant in April and early May, but began sowing corn at a record-tying pace starting in mid-May amid warmer temperatures and lighter rain, the USDA said. Planted acreage, if realized, would be the highest since 1936, the USDA said.

Inventories of corn, by contrast, dropped 12% to 2.76 billion bushels, the lowest level in 16 years, the USDA said. Analysts had forecast that domestic corn stockpiles on June 1 totaled 2.856 billion bushels.

Low stockpiles in part reflect last year's drought, which devastated some crops.

The USDA also raised its estimate of planted soybean acreage to a record 77.7 million acres this year, up 1% from last year but still shy of expectations. Analysts expected the USDA to estimate this year's domestic soybean plantings at 78.02 million acres.

Soybean planting also was hindered by cool and wet weather, though "during the first part of June, conditions did allow good progress to be made in many areas," the USDA said.

Soybean stocks tumbled by 35% to 435 million bushels, the USDA said, the lowest June level since 2004. Analysts had expected 441 million bushels.

Friday's reports are among the most keenly awaited from the USDA each year, and they can drive large swings in futures prices if the estimates surprise traders.

The Agriculture Department also raised slightly its estimate of spring-wheat plantings to 12.3 million acres.

All wheat planted is forecast at 56.5 million acres, up 1% from 2012. Analysts had expected 55.75 million acres.

Wheat stockpiles fell 3% to 718 million bushels. Analysts had forecast 750 million bushels.

-Owen Fletcher contributed to this article.

Write to Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@dowjones.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 28, 2013 12:08 ET (16:08 GMT)

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