Based on survey results of growers across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that there will be 81.5 million acres of soybeans in the coming growing season — up six percent from last year.
If realized, this soybean acreage would be an all-time record high, according to USDA officials, who released their Prospective Plantings report on Monday, March 31.
The previous record acreage for U.S. soybeans was 77.5 million acres in 2009, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS.)
Along with that six percent increase in soybean acres, the surveyed producers said they would plant four percent fewer corn acres in 2014.
Though it's still early in the season, and weather could still make significant changes in farmers' plans, the Prospective Plantings report is one that is watched closely by the market. It is the first official report of the year based on surveys of farmers' planting intentions.
The NASS acreage estimates are based on surveys the USDA agency conducted during the first two weeks of March and are taken from a sample of more than 84,000 farmers across the country.
The nation's growers plan to plant 91.7 million acres of corn, which is down four percent from 2013 and would be the lowest planted acreage since 2010 as expected returns from corn drop from recent years. Farmers apparently see soybeans as a crop that will have better returns in 2014.
But as yields continue to rise, even a smaller acreage of corn could bring a bumper crop. If realized, this year's corn planting would be the fifth-largest corn crop since 1944.
With 91.7 million acres planted and average yields, final 2014 U.S. corn production would come in between 13.2 and 13.4 billion bushels.
The Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service surveyed 1,500 state farmers to come up with its data on prospective plantings, finding that they plan to plant 4.1 million acres of corn, which is unchanged from last year.
State farmers also intend to plant 1.75 million acres of soybeans and that's up 11 percent from 2013. Wisconsin's Agricultural Statistician Greg Bussler said that if realized this would be the largest state soybean acreage on record.
Those soybean fields look like they will be coming out of winter wheat acreage, which is estimated to drop eight percent from 2013.
Farmers plan to plant more oat acres, up five percent from last year to 260,000 acres and dry hay production is expected to remain the same as last year.
Bussler said that of course the actual plantings will depend on weather conditions, economic factors and the availability of production inputs.
Nationally, the USDA said farmers in Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts and Utah are expected to plant larger acreages of corn. If the data in this survey holds true, planted acreage in Idaho will be a record high, the report said.
Acreage intentions for soybeans are up or unchanged in all states except Missouri and Oklahoma.
The largest increase in soybean acres is expected in North Dakota, where farmers said they plan to plant a record high 5.65 million acres. That's up a million acres from 2013.
If realized, the planted soybean acres will be the largest on record in Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, as well as Wisconsin.
The record for production of soybeans — 3.36 billion bushels — was set in 2009. If Mother Nature cooperates, 2014 could exceed that record, analysts said.
If this report is realized, the final U.S. soybean production could set a record of between 3.4 and 3.5 billion bushels with decent weather and production levels.
The USDA's NASS also released the quarterly Grain Stocks report on Monday to provide estimates of on-farm and off-farm grain supplies. The report is based on surveys from March 1.
The total of stored soybeans was 992 million bushels, down one percent from this time last year. On-farm soybeans stocks were down 16 percent from a year ago but off-farm stocks were up 13 percent, according to the report.
Corn stocks totaled just over 7 billion bushels, up 30 percent from this time last year. On-farm corn stocks were up 45 percent from March 2013 and off-farm stocks were up 15 percent.
Wheat in storage totaled 1.06 billion bushels, which is down 15 percent from year earlier levels. On-farm wheat stocks were up slightly from last year while off-farm stocks were down 18 percent.
"The forecast gives us an indication of what farmers intend to plant but everything depends on the weather," said Todd Davis, a crops agronomist with the American Farm Bureau.
"It remains to be seen whether or not farmers can plant their corn and soybeans in a timely fashion without a repeat of the problems seen in 2013 in the Western Corn Belt," he said.