Besides weighing potential market prices against the cost of fuel, fertilizer and seeds, farmers have a new factor for their planting decisions: Will it assure them of a trade war payment? President Trump's suggestion that if his trade deals with China and other nations are slow to bear, "aid will be paid by the federal government," could encourage farmers to plant more land this spring than would otherwise be justified.
The rainiest spring in a quarter-century slowed the planting season and helped limit U.S. farmers to their smallest crop area in five decades, said the government in assessing 2019 production. Early snowfall and icy autumn weather prevented growers from harvesting more than 600 million bushels of corn, and the USDA said it would update estimates of corn and soybean supplies, if warranted, "once producers are able to finish harvesting remaining acres."
Despite the wettest spring in a quarter century, U.S. farmers sowed nearly 6 percent more corn and 5 percent fewer soybeans than expected during a cold and muddy planting season, said the USDA, based on a survey of 68,100 growers during the first two weeks of June. The annual Acreage report usually provides a definitive picture of crops, but excessive rain slowed field work so much that the USDA said it will re-survey the Midwest this month and would revise its acreage data, if need be, in its August crop report.
Aside from planning a 4-percent expansion of corn area, U.S. farmers aren't enthusiastic about spring planting. With little improvement expected in commodity prices, growers say they will plant fewer acres of soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, sorghum and oats than in 2018, and they'll stand pat on barley.
U.S. farmers planted nearly 2 million more acres of corn and soybeans than they planned in late winter, but soybeans, for the first time in 35 years, will be the most widely grown crop in the country, said the USDA's annual Acreage report. The soybean harvest could be the second-largest ever and corn the third-largest, assuming normal weather and yields.
Wheat growers sowed 31.2 million acres of winter wheat for harvest this spring, the lowest figure since 1909 for the dominant type of U.S. wheat, according to a survey of farmers by Farm Futures. It would be a declne of 4.5 percent from last year and reflect poor profit potential of the wheat compared to other crops.
It sounded like the return of Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz, who urged farmers to plant fence row to fence row, when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked about the uncertainties created by President Trump's plan to renegotiate trade pacts, says DTN. Ross responded, "If I were a farmer, I would plant as much as I can logically plant in today's environment."
For the third month in a row, the USDA said the record-setting U.S. corn and soybean crops are bigger than expected. At 15.2 billion bushels, the corn crop is roughly a billion bushels larger than the 2014 record and the soybean crop, now pegged at 4.36 billion bushels, is 10-percent larger than the previous mark, also set in 2014.
The record-setting U.S. soybean crop is even bigger than expected, up nearly 2 percent from USDA's previous forecast to an estimated 4.269 billion bushels. With farm-gate prices at the second-lowest level in a decade, soybean exports will exceed 2 billion bushels for the first time, according to the monthly WASDE report.
U.S. farmers are growing peanuts faster than the nation, or the world, can consume them, say USDA economists, who estimate the peanut supply will be a record 9.5 billion pounds following this year's harvest. Thanks to rising demand, led by China and Vietnam, exports are forecast for a record 1.5 billion pounds — one-fourth of this year's crop — but the U.S. peanut surplus could continue to grow.