March Prospective Planting Intentions report higher than expected

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U.S. farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn in 2012, an increase of 3.9 million acres from last year. In February, USDA released the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2021 and forecast 2012 planted acreage at 94 million acres. Corn acreage increased the most in the Northern Plains region, comprised of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Corn acreage increased by 1.7 million acres in the Northern Plains, compared with a 1.0-million increase in the Corn Belt States (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio). The big year-to-year increase for the Northern Plains as compared with the Corn Belt has implications for the national average yield as yields in the Northern Plains are about 15 percent less than yields in the Corn Belt. Still, as a share of total area, Northern Plains corn plantings remain relatively small compared with those of the Corn Belt, and the increase year-on-year for the region is a relatively small share of total U.S. corn area.

Most corn-producing States show an increase in expected corn acreage, with the exception of Illinois, Colorado, and Texas. Illinois and Colorado have small declines. The 150,000-acre decline in Texas came on the heels of a shift to cotton last year. This season, Texas farmers are reducing cotton acreage and shifting corn and cotton acres to sorghum for 2012/13.

U.S. farmers plan to increase plantings of sorghum by 9 percent in 2012 to 5.95 million acres. Barley acreage is expected to surge 30 percent to 3.33 million acres with a recovering in area in North Dakota. In 2012, oat planting intentions are reported at 2.86 million acres, up 15 percent from the record low plantings of 2.50 million acres in 2011. If realized, this would still be the second-lowest acreage planted on record.

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