The 2019 growing season will go down as one of the most challenging planting seasons on record due to spring flooding and persistent rainfall across the Midwest. Planting progress for corn and soybeans was historically delayed. Current expectations are for prevent-plant crop-insurance claims to exceed $1 billion and reach a record of 10 million acres.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June “World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates” report recognized the challenges faced in the 2019 crop year. The department decreased corn-planted acreage to 89.8 million acres, a reduction of 3 million acres from the department’s March estimate. Crop yield was also reduced, from 176 bushels per acre to 166 bushels per acre.

The USDA reversed course in its annual survey-based June Acreage Report. For the 2019-2020 crop year, the USDA indicated corn-planted area at 91.7 million acres. That’s an increase of 3 percent or 2.6 million acres from prior-year levels. It’s only a slight decrease from March intentions of 92 million acres planted.

The USDA’s June corn-acreage estimate increased from the June World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates projection – at well more than the average pre-report estimate of 86.6 million acres. Figures 1 and 2 highlight the USDA’s corn acres planted or intended to be planted and the year-over-year change from 2018.

Following continued declines in new-crop soybean prices – due to substantially reduced Chinese demand – the USDA revealed soybean acres planted at 80 million acres, a decrease of 9.2 million acres or 10 percent from 2018. It’s a decrease of 4.6 million acres from March intentions. Soybean plantings in 2019 are expected to be the least since 2013; plantings are expected to be reduced in all 29 soybean-producing states. Figures 3 and 4 highlight the USDA’s soybean acres planted or intended to be planted and the year-over-year change from 2018.

USDA will re-interview some states

It’s an understatement to say the USDA’s report surprised the corn market. New-crop corn futures decreased by more than 19 cents. That represented a $2.6 billion reduction in the value of new-crop corn, based on World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates production figures. The USDA acknowledged as much, indicating that 83 percent of the intended corn acreage had been planted at the time of the survey – well less than the 10-year average.

In order to provide a more-accurate estimate of crop size and planted area, the USDA plans to resurvey farmers in advance of its Aug. 12 Crop Production report. Farmers in 14 states will be re-interviewed to determine their planted area of corn, soybeans and sorghum. Figure 5 identifies the states subject to acreage resurveys.

State Farm

Bureaus contacted

I contacted state Farm Bureaus in the re-interview region to learn their ground-level perspective on corn and soybean acres planted, remaining to be planted or prevented from being planted.

Illinois – Corn acres unchanged, soybean acres decrease by 5 percent — A central Illinois farmer reported to me this past weekend that he had one field he originally planned to plant to corn. He was the prevented from planting corn on that field. Now he has just finished planting soybeans on that field. Market Intel note – The planting of soybeans may have been motivated by the planting requirement associated with the Market Facilitation Program.

Indiana – Corn acres increase 3 percent, soybean acres decrease 11 percent — Farmers in Indiana have given up hope of planting any more corn – and did so several weeks ago. Prevent-planted acres are all across the state but particularly in central and southern Indiana, where farmers experienced rainfall far more than normal. Corn can be seen in the state from just popping out of the ground to knee-high. Anticipated yields at this time will be far less than the 10-year average for farmers.

Kansas – Corn acres increase 8 percent, soybean acres decrease 1 percent — While a majority of intended Kansas corn acres have been planted, many of those acres went in during and after the USDA Risk Management Agency’s late-planting period. In a few counties as much as 25 percent of the crop was either prevented from being planted or the planted corn is now under water.

The bulk of intended soybeans in Kansas are in or going in, but a significant portion is later than intended. An early frost could be devastating.

Kansas grain-sorghum planting is finishing. It’s suspected that at least in some areas of the state, forage crops may be substituted for intended grain-sorghum acreage.

The Kansas cotton crop went in extremely late. Estimates are that only about 50 percent to 60 percent of intended acres were planted this spring.

All crops are behind and will require almost-optimal temperatures and measured amounts of precipitation throughout the growing season. Again an earlier-than-normal frost could be devastating.

Michigan – Corn acres unchanged, soybean acres decrease 9 percent — There were a lot of acres planted during the weekend in central Michigan, but anything recently planted to corn will go to silage, not grain. The large dairy presence and need for forage in the area has caused a lot of farmers to keep planting corn with no intention of harvesting it for grain. Based on some informal surveys done a few weeks ago, I would estimate that about 65 percent of originally intended acres were planted to corn for grain.

Soybean progress is more difficult to estimate because there were still soybeans being planted during the weekend. It varies quite a bit across the state, but the southeast and central parts of the state are probably the worst-hit areas. Our media staff is creating a member survey that will go out to help give us a better idea of actual acreage.

I think one thing that would help make the USDA’s resurvey more accurate is if they give clear direction on how farmers should report prevent-plant acreage – especially prevent-plant land that is planted to corn as a cover crop for silage.

Missouri – Corn acres decrease 3 percent, soybean acres decrease 9 percent — Extreme flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as well as internal state tributaries has wreaked havoc with corn planting in Missouri. Some land is still either covered or partially covered with water and will not be planted. Corn plantings in April and the first half of May were detrimentally impacted by frequent heavy rains, causing thousands of acres to be replanted and/or forcing many farmers to leave undesirable stands due to the lateness of the season. Corn planted the last 10 days of May and into the first three weeks of June had better stands. Of the corn 25 percent to 30 percent is normal, 50 percent is intermediate with uneven stands and 20 percent to 25 percent is replant.

Ohio – Corn acres decrease 6 percent, soybean acres decrease 6 percent — It’s difficult to nail down how accurate the latest USDA planting report is. Some of our economists don’t believe it’s super-far off, but if we ask our farmers they claim much less has been planted. They are not thrilled to see the price slide with this latest report.

I was recently in Ottawa County in northwest Ohio. Their Soil and Water Department in the county estimates that only 4 percent of corn was planted and 30 percent of beans. I would say that is definitely worse than most, but many of the surrounding counties experienced very serious planting issues as well. During my drive through northwest Ohio I saw a lot of weeds and barren fields.

If Ohio doesn’t have a record for prevented-plant acreage I will be surprised. And for crops that are planted, they are weeks behind. They are struggling to come up or already in need of replant. And how much can be replanted at this point? Probably not much.

South Dakota – corn acres decrease 9 percent, soybean acres decrease 22 percent — It looks like South Dakota will set the record for prevented-plant acres by far. As always there are differences around the state, but it sounds to me that on average the state will only be about 60 percent planted. On our farm we were at 50 percent. Some areas of the northeast part of the state are 80 percent to 90 percent planted. By the Mitchell and Chamberlain areas, and between Pierre and Huron, some producers couldn’t plant anything at all. There are some areas where one can drive several miles and not see a planted field.

Summary

The USDA currently projects corn acres at 91.7 million acres, an increase of 3 percent from prior-year levels, and soybean acres at 80 million acres, a decrease of 10 percent from 2018. But given the historical delays in planting at the time of the USDA’s acreage survey, the USDA plans to resurvey farmers in advance of its August “Crop Production” report. Feedback from state Farm Bureaus confirms the need to resurvey crop acreage. The feedback points to potential yield issues due to unfavorable growing conditions and supports a more substantial reduction in corn acres planted.

John Newton is the chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Market Intel. Visit fb.org for more information.