The News & What it Means – Big Swings in Dakotas Make US Corn, Soy Planted Area Even More Uncertain

By John DePutter & Dave Milne – April 4, 2019
The news:

“Dakotas lead way in ramping up corn acres, cutting soybeans.”

– Syngenta website article, April 2, 2019

What it means:

Even more uncertainty about nationwide corn and soybean planting intentions.

For those that missed it, last week’s USDA prospective plantings report indicated that American producers plan to increase 2019 corn seeded area by 3.66 million acres from a year earlier to 92.8 million. On the other hand, nationwide soybean intentions were reported at 84.6 million acres, a 4.5-million decrease from the previous year.

Now, the fact US farmers plan to increase corn plantings and cutback on soybeans is no surprise, given that soybean prices have suffered badly in the wake of the ongoing US-China trade spat. And it’s also no surprise that actual corn and soybean plantings typically deviate from original farmer intentions, primarily due to weather-related considerations.

Indeed, the weather can and often does lead to more corn acres when early planting conditions are good. On the other hand, producers tend to cut back on corn and plant more soybeans when the weather causes seeding delays.

And that’s where the Dakotas come in. Crunching the numbers reveals that a full 45% of the intended increase in national corn acres is due to North Dakota and South Dakota. North Dakota producers said they plan to increase corn planted area by almost 30% to 4.05 million acres, while their South Dakota counterparts indicated a 13% increase to 6 million acres.

As for soybeans, almost 19% of the intended drop in nationwide acres is thanks to the Dakotas, with North Dakota producers indicating a 400,000-acre drop to 6.5 million and South Dakota producers a 450,000-acre decline to 5.2 million. Adding in the expected declines in Iowa and Minnesota, the four states together account for about 40% of the intended cut in nationwide soy acres.

The fact the bulk of the expected change in US corn and soybean acres is limited to so few states only heightens the amount of uncertainty about final acreage numbers, especially since the Dakotas are particularly vulnerable to flooding this year.

As can be seen on the map here, there remains 1-2 feet of snow on the ground over parts of the northern Plains, holding as much as 6 inches of water. Just this week, the US National Weather Service officially issued a flood warning for parts of North Dakota, including Grand Forks and Fargo. Meanwhile, some reports suggest that some rivers on the Plains may not fall below the flood stage until the middle of May.

Some of the flood risk has lessened in recent days due a slow melt and a lack of rain, but it seems probable that many farmers in both North Dakota and South Dakota will not get into the field during the ideal planting window.

If that happens, those national corn and soybean planted area estimates stand to see big changes.

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