The Farm Futures survey of more than 1,750 growers found farmers ready to plant 97.43 million acres of corn, up .3% from 2012. If achieved, the total would be the most since 1936.
The increase in soybeans could be even more dramatic. Farmers said they want to plant 79.09 million acres this spring, up 2.5% from 2012 and easily an all-time record if achieved.
"With stocks of both corn and soybeans projected near historic lows, strong acreage this spring is a must to rebuild inventories," says Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr, who conducted the research. "Spring weather could still change these numbers significantly, and prices will be important, too. Some 18% of those surveyed said they could still shift 50% or more of their acres."
Indeed, prices have already caused major adjustments in farmer planting plans since Farm Futures first surveyed growers in August. Back then, farmers were reluctant to increase corn acreage, with many feeling continuous corn exacerbated damage from the historic 2012 drought. But high prices helped lure growers back to corn in the magazine's January survey, which showed similar numbers to the latest tally. However, while farmers in the eastern Corn Belt and South boosted corn prospects, farmers to the west plan fewer acres. Instead, they're preparing a strong increase in soybean plantings this spring, with average acres in the region up 10% or more.
Farm Futures Market Analyst Paul Burgener notes the survey found farmers overall hoping to put in 2.5 million more acres of corn, soybeans and wheat this spring. "The increased acres have to come from somewhere," Burgener says. "Hay stocks are very low and grassland will be at a premium, so this shift could have a bigger impact than usual if many of these are historic grassland acres."
At least some of the western acres could come from wheat. The Farm Futures survey found growers on the northern Plains ready to plant 11.91 million acres of spring wheat, down 3% from 2012. The survey also suggests abandonment of hard red winter wheat acres could be as much as 1.35 million more than usual due to poor conditions last fall. The survey shows total wheat seedings at 56.12 million acres, down 1 million from earlier surveys.
USDA releases its annual estimate of prospective plantings on March 28. While those numbers usually draw the big headlines, they could be overshadowed this year by the agency's estimate of March 1 grain stocks. Farm Futures showed inventory of corn and soybeans stored on farm is down dramatically due to the drought: Corn stocks are just 68.1% of last year, while soybeans are 77.9% of those seen in 2012.
"March on-farm corn stocks could be at their lowest level since 1996," Burgener said. "Feed and ethanol use continues to pull the crop out of bins and into the pipeline even though exports have been limited."
Farm Futures surveyed more than 1,750 growers by email March 5 to March 19.