A year of tumultuous weather and natural disasters, 2018 brought challenges where expectations were high for good yields and market pricing. In Alabama alone, producers experienced hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding on top of the usual changes in weather farmers expect.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist, Max Runge, said while uncertainty is normal in the agricultural sector, there is more uncertainty for 2019 than usual and that may impact farmers’ planting decisions.
“Prices, trade and farm policy coupled with natural disasters have not only producers, but agribusinesses across the country uneasy as we start this growing season,” Runge said. “We always encourage crop rotations, but this may be a year where farmers alter their cropping decisions because of their financial situation or factors that prevent them from maintaining their rotation.”
Alabama’s Prospective Plantings Report
In its March report, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates corn planting at 280,000 acres—an increase of eight percent over 2018. Estimates for Alabama cotton intended acres are equal to acres planted in 2018 at 510,000. Peanuts are up three percent from the previous year, estimated at 170,000 acres. Winter wheat planted is estimated at 170,000 acres, up six percent from last year. Intended soybean acreage is down to 280,000—a large 19 percent decrease from 2018.
Runge said the biggest surprise in the report was the number of soybean acres projected in Alabama.
“Alabama’s soybean acres are projected to be down 19 percent from last year,” he said. “I expected these acres to be lower, but not this much lower since the total U.S. acres are only forecasted to be down five percent from 2018.”
U.S. Prospective Plantings Report
Across the country, planted acreage looks to be lower for soybeans, wheat and cotton. Corn is the exception with an estimate of 92.8 million acres, up 4 percent from 2018. Soybean planted area estimates are 84.6 million acres—a drop of five percent from the previous year. Cotton acreage is projected at 13.8 million acres, two percent below 2018. The wheat planted area is down four percent from last year at 45.8 million acres.
NASS reports the wheat planted area is the lowest on record since records began in 1919.
“If estimates are correct, this will be the fewest U.S. wheat acreage in 100 years,” Runge said. “Low wheat price and cost of production are factors in the lower wheat acreage.”
Runge believes projected cotton acres across the U.S. may be on the low side, but acres for other row crops seem reasonable.
“It should be noted that the survey was conducted before the flooding in the Midwest,” he said. “Crop choices in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri could be affected.”
The prospective planting report was seen as bearish for corn and bullish for soybeans.
Runge said trade issues are hanging over the markets.
“Until the trade agreements are settled, I do not expect many upside possibilities,” he said. “Continued flooding in the Midwest and along the Mississippi River could alter which crops farmers are able to plant. I do see a chance of increased soybean acres due to wet planting conditions in the Midwest.”