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Farmers expected to plant less corn, more soybeans, in 2024
By Michele F. Mihaljevich
Indiana Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Farmers are planning to plant less corn – and slightly more soybeans – than expected in 2024, according to the latest USDA plantings report.
Corn acreage is estimated at 90 million, down from nearly 95 million in 2023, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) said March 28. Before the report’s release, analysts were expecting 92 million acres, said Todd Hultman, DTN lead analyst.
Soybean acreage is estimated at 86.5 million, up from last year’s 83.6 million. Hultman said pre-report expectations for soybeans were 86.3 million acres.
Wheat is estimated at 47.5 million acres, down from 49.6 million in 2023. The 2024 number is close to pre-report expectations of 47.7 million, he noted. Winter wheat acreage is down 7 percent, from 36.7 million last year to 34.1 million.
The top eight corn-producing states all saw acreage drops. The top two – Iowa and Illinois – each will lose 300,000 acres. Indiana (no. 7) will lose 350,000 acres, NASS said. Minnesota (no. 4) saw the biggest reduction at 700,000 acres.
“Overall, it was a pretty widespread, the reduction in corn acres this year, but definitely Illinois and Iowa contributing their share,” Hultman explained. “I have to wonder if concerns maybe about dry conditions in Minnesota affected those totals at all.”
For soybeans, the top eight producing states saw acreage gains. Illinois (no. 1) acreage is up 150,000, Iowa (no. 2) up 250,000, and Indiana (no. 6), up 250,000. North Dakota (no. 4) saw the largest gain at 700,000 acres.
“So outside of North Dakota and Missouri (up 400,000), small changes overall but, again, everybody showing some participation in today’s higher soybean planting estimate,” he said.
NASS also released grain stocks numbers as of March 1. For corn, stocks were up 13 percent from a year ago, to 8.35 billion bushels. The number was below what the trade expected.
“USDA may raise feed residual on the coming April supply and demand report,” said Rich Nelson, Allendale, Inc., chief strategist. “So, a positive number there, stock numbers 80 million bushels below the trade expectation. Also positive for corn, the acreage numbers were smaller than expected here.
“So, while we’re not exactly changing the corn balance sheets, we’re certainly making them less bearish. So a positive for both old and new crop there.”
The lower-than-expected corn stocks number shows a little more active demand in the first half of the year than anticipated, Hultman said. “Even so, we still have to acknowledge the corn supplies for March 1 are still the highest in five years.”
Soybean stocks were 1.85 billion bushels, about 17 million bushels over the trade expectation, Nelson said. Stocks were up 9 percent from a year ago.
Wheat stocks were a little larger than the trade expected to see, at 1.09 billion bushels. The number was 43 million bushels over the trade expectation, he noted.
Hultman said USDA may eventually need to raise the ending stocks number for wheat.
“It’s not that we’ve had an overabundance of wheat supplies but we just haven’t been able to move them,” he said. “Exports have been among the lowest in over 50 years. (We’re) continuing to have a difficult time moving our wheat supplies here in the U.S.
Dr. Todd D. Davis, Indiana Farm Bureau chief economist, said market fundamentals could change from the latest projections because corn and soybean seeds are still in the bag.
“These reports are really about managing expectations, and the market moves when it’s a surprise,” he said in a release. “The only real surprise this time around was that corn acres decreased by 2 million acres more than expected. However, keep in mind that planters aren’t rolling yet. These numbers reflect what farmers were thinking during early March.”