After fewer acres were planted last year it appears as though improved sunflower prices have enticed producers to plant more sunflower in 2019.

Sunflower acres are expected to grow by 4 percent over last year according USDA’s Prospective Plantings Report which was released March 29.

“Sunflower growers intend to plant 1.35 million acres in 2019,” according to John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, writing in NSA’s weekly newsletter on April 1. “Compared with last year, growers in four of the eight major sunflower producing states expect an increase in sunflower acreage this year.”

The largest increase in acres from last year is expected in North Dakota, Sandbakken pointed out, adding that planted area is expected to increase 44,000 acres compared to last year.

According to the USDA report, 1.20 million acres are intended for oil type varieties. That’s an increase of 3 percent from 2018.

“The increase in oil type acres is lower than industry expectations,” Sandbakken said.

“Area intended for non-oil varieties, estimated at 150,000 acres, is up 9 percent from last year and is in line with most traders’ thoughts,” he added.

One of the reasons for the increase in sunflower acres is improved prices. Since the first of this year average NuSun sunflower prices have improved from $16.60-$16.85 per hundredweight to $17.45-$17.55.

As of April 1, old crop NuSun prices at the Cargill crush plant in Fargo, N.D., were listed at $17.55 per hundredweight for delivery in April, and $17.60 for delivery in May. At the ADM crush plant in Enderlin, N.D., NuSun prices for delivery in April were $17.45 per hundredweight for delivery in April and May.

High oleic sunflower prices for April delivery at both Fargo and Enderlin were $17.65.

Sandbakken also pointed out that new crop sunflower contracts for 2019 are available at the crush plants with cash and Act of God (AOG) contracts available. NuSun 2019 new crop cash prices at Cargill were $17.25 and $16.75 with an AOG clause. New crop cash prices at ADM were $17.15 and AOG contracts were $16.65.

High oleic new crop prices at Cargill were $17 cash and $16.75 with an AOG. At ADM new crop cash prices were $17.45 and AOG contracts were $16.95. At other locations in North Dakota new crop high oleic cash prices were $16.65 at Pingree and $15.95 at Hebron.

Sandbakken also reiterated to producers to consider the oil premiums that crush plants pay on sunflower when marketing their sunflower.

“Sunflower is the only oilseed that pays premiums for oil content above 40 percent,” he said.

He noted that oil premiums are offered at the crush plants on oil content above 40 percent at a rate of 2 percent price premium for each 1 percent of oil above 40 percent.

“This pushes a contract with 45 percent oil content gross return 10 percent higher per hundredweight. The AOG $17 contract increases to $18.70 and the cash $17.50 contract moves up to $19.25,” he explained.

Looking at other oil crops in USDA’s report, including corn and soybeans, the report came out largely as many analysts expected with corn acres increasing and soybean acres decreasing.

USDA pegged 2019 corn acres - for all purposes - at 92.8 million acres. That’s an increase of 4 percent or 3.66 million acres from last year.

“Compared with last year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 34 of the 48 estimating states,” Sandbakken said.

Soybean acres in 2019 are estimated at 84.6 million acres, a decrease of 5 percent from 2018.

“Compared with last year, planted acreage is down or unchanged in 26 of the 29 estimating states,” he said.

“Today’s acreage and grain stocks reports will guide the market as we head into the planting season. It will also give farmers a look at what others are thinking of planting this year and may adjust their plans,” he concluded.