U.S. to boost corn, soybean plantings by 5%- USDA

Corn production could top 15 billion bushels and soybeans could total 4.5 billion bushels.

Responding to strong exports and U.S. economic recovery, farmers will plant 92 million acres of corn and 90 million acres of soybeans this spring. pointing to a record soybean crop and possibly the largest corn harvest ever, said the USDA on Thursday. Chief economist Seth Meyer also said farm exports would be a record $157 billion this year, including largest-ever exports of $31.5 billion to China.

“While the outlook is positive, uncertainties remain,” said Meyer in opening USDA’s two-day Agricultural Outlook Forum online. 

Plantings of corn and soybeans, the two major U.S. crops, would be 5% larger than last year, corn up by 1.2 million acres and soybeans up by 6.9 million acres. Corn acreage would be the largest since 2016 and soybeans only a hair behind the record 90.2 million acres of 2017.

Corn production could top 15 billion bushels and soybeans could total 4.5 billion bushels, assuming normal weather and USDA’s projected yields for this year. The records now are 15.148 billion bushels of corn in 2016 and 4.428 billion bushels of soybeans in 2018.

Wheat acreage is projected at 45 million acres and upland cotton at 12 million acres. Last year, wheat was sown on 44.3 million acres and upland cotton was planted on 11.9 million acres. 

“It really is a story of a strong return to trade… strong demand from China,” said Meyer in discussing the export outlook. U.S. ag exports slumped in fiscal 2019 and 2020 because of trade war with China. Beijing returned as a customer last summer at the same time that U.S. supplies tightened, helping to drive up commodity prices.

The new export forecast is $5 billion higher than the previous estimate last November. The record for exports is $152.3 billion in 2014, at the tail end of the commodity boom. 

The forecast of a record $31.5 billion in ag exports to China is a $4.5 billion increase from the November estimate and $14.4 billion higher than exports of $17.1 billion in fiscal 2020.

Corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs, “not coincidentally” in demand by China, will lead a recovery in cash receipts by farmers this year, said Meyer. A sharp decline of federal payments will be counter-balanced by larger revenue from crops and livestock.

“It really is a cash receipt rebound,” said Meyer. For Corn Belt farmers, “they may actually see farm income rise in 2021.”

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