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Another 4-Billion-Bushel Soybean Crop?

In its first projections of 2017 crops, USDA says farmers will plant a record 84.6 million acres of soybeans, paving the way to the second harvest in two years to exceed 4 billion bushels. The 900,000-acre expansion in soybean plantings would be an exception. USDA expects growers will throttle back on wheat, corn, and other feed grains in the face of continued low market prices and high input costs.

Futures prices were “sending a strong signal to switch acres from corn to soybeans,” say University of Illinois economists Gary Schnitkey and Darrel Good, based on early December conditions. Soybeans were $80 an acre more profitable than corn, but with a typical 50-50 corn-soy rotation, returns would be relatively low.

USDA economists project corn plantings at 90 million acres, down 5% from 2016; wheat sowings would total 48.5 million acres, down 3%. With a return to trend-line yields from the records set last year, the soybean crop would be 4.050 billion bushels and corn would total 14.060 billion bushels, a dramatic drop from the 15.226 billion bushels harvested last fall.

The wheat crop, at 1.936 billion bushels, would be the smallest since 2006.

Season-average prices for soybeans will run at $9.35 to $9.45 a bushel through the end of the decade, while corn would sell for $3.30 to $3.45 a bushel, says USDA. Low commodity prices will keep pressure on farm income. USDA will update its crop projections and make its first forecast of 2017 farm income in February.

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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