USDA’s estimate of U.S. cotton acreage came in lower than many in the trade had expected, which one analyst says may be partly due to high input costs for the crop.

“The cotton acres were a surprise,” said Jack Scoville, with The Price Futures Group, speaking at a CME Group press briefing on USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report.

“The trade was looking for something over 13 million acres in planting intentions, and we didn’t even get to 12.6 million acres. It’s probably reflective of the cost that it takes to produce cotton as well as the specialized equipment you need. You can’t just turn around and buy all that new equipment right off the bat, especially if you think it’s only a one or two year phenomenon.”

Scoville says U.S. rice acreage, with planting intentions at a little over 3 million acres “has to be disappointing to the bulls. The plantings are significantly below a year ago, but there were expectations that the acreage would be well below 3 million acres.”

“There also seems to be plenty of stocks, which was consistent with trade expectations.”

Soybean planted area for 2011 and quarterly stocks were both below trade estimates, noted Scoville. “Both numbers imply that prices should be able to move higher. Most of the increase in soybean planted area will be in the Mid-South, with the Midwest largely unchanged.