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As the acreage battle continues to play out, a Pro Farmer member survey shows better commodity prices are attracting more acres this year.

The Pro Farmer/Doane survey revealed farmers plan to plant more acres, with total area planted to crops in the U.S. expected to rise to 319.4 million acres. That would be up nearly 3%, or 8.9 million acres, from 2020. If the survey findings hold true, it also means U.S. acreage will hit the highest level since 2018.

"Results of the annual Pro Farmer/Doane planting intentions survey not surprisingly signaled there will be big increases in corn and soybean acres this year given the sharp rise in prices," says Brian Grete, editor of ProFarmer. "We project total corn and soybean plantings at a record 182.3 million acres, which would be up 8.4 million acres (4.8%) from last year. Total acres planted to the big four crops, corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton, are expected to rise 9.5 million acres (4.1%) from last year."

Pro Farmer chief economist Bill Nelson helped compile the survey results. He says farmers who responded to the survey represented 41 of the lower 48 states. The only states without a response were the New England states, as well as Nevada.

"I was surprised and impressed by the consistency of central Midwest farmers - in states like Iowa, Illinois, eastern Nebraska, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin - moving toward soybeans instead of corn when they decided to break from their traditional rotations," says Nelson. "That was in contrast to almost literally every other state where the surveys netted higher corn acres, and higher soybean acres, either at the expense of other crops or especially in the northern Plains, recovery of prevented planted acres. Rhetorically, were these central farmers more attuned to the soybean versus corn economics or might the derecho and late season weather of 2020 also weigh into the decisions in these states?"

USDA's 2021 Ag Outlook Forum in February provided an initial look at acreage. USDA's new chief economist, Seth Meyer, released projections showing the agency expects farmers to plant 90 million acres of soybeans this year and 92 million acres of corn. Combined, that would be a new record.

"Pro Farmer's findings are stronger on corn and weaker on soybeans relative to USDA's 92 million corn and 90 million soybeans," says Nelson. "The differences are not unusual in their magnitude. They are consistent in showing more corn and soybeans and a preference for more net gains of soybeans versus corn. Total corn plus soybeans from the survey were indicating 182.25 million acres, essentially the same as USDA at 182.0 million. The past record for the two was in 2017 at 180.329 million. Their total has been in a general upward trend over many years, subject to years like the past two when prevented plantings took away acres due to weather."

To view results from the entire survey, and a breakdown of projected planted acres for each crop, visit the Pro Farmer website.

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