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Farmers Likely to Plant More Corn in 2018

After back-to-back records in soybean acreage and production, farmers are likely to plant more corn in 2018, possibly enough for the second-largest corn crop ever, says a University of Missouri think tank. "The outlook for corn returns has improved relative to those for soybeans," says FAPRI chief Pat Westhoff.

FAPRI projects corn plantings of 93.2 million acres, a gain of 2.3 million acres, while soybean acreage would slip to 86 million, down by 2.5 million acres but still the second-largest acreage ever.

Futures prices were more supportive for corn in early fall than they were when farmers finalized planting plans last spring, and fertilizer prices are lower than a year earlier, says Westhoff. Crop rotation patterns also suggest it's time to cycle out of beans. FAPRI estimates that this year's record-setting soybean crop will result in a season-average price of $9.07 a bushel, more than 40¢ below the 2016 crop's average, another nudge toward corn. USDA says there will be a price decline but not as severe.

If plantings align with FARPI projections, it would set the stage for a corn harvest of 14.65 billion bushels (the second largest on record) and a soybean crop of 4.08 billion bushels (number three in the record books).

Plenty can change before spring planting, says Westhoff. "The final size of this year’s crop, evolving demand conditions, and more will affect farmer expectations for 2018 returns. Corn and soybean returns are in closer balance than they’ve been in some other years, so if the economics move in favor of one or the other, acreage will follow."

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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