The USDA's much-anticipated estimates of March 1 grain stocks and 2014 planting intentions released March 31 contained a few surprises, but no major shocks.

March 1 corn stocks and planting intentions are a bit smaller than the average trade guess.  March 1 soybean stocks were almost equal to the average trade guess, while planting intentions are slightly larger than expected.

Producers reported intentions to plant 91.691 million acres of corn in 2014, 3.674 million fewer acres than planted last year and about 1.2 million less than the average trade guess.  The largest declines are planned in North Dakota (900,000), Nebraska (550,000), and South Dakota (400,000). 

Intentions in Iowa are for a 400,000 acre increase in corn acreage.  Compared to last year’s plantings, intentions are down 100, 000 acres in Illinois and 200,000 acres in Indiana and Ohio.   Planting intentions point to harvested acreage for grain of about 84.4 million acres.  A trend yield of 163.2 bushels, then, would result in a crop of 13.775 billion bushels, 150 million bushels smaller than the 2013 crop.  A crop of that size would likely lead to only a small build-up of inventories by the end of the 2014-15 marketing year and suggests that the average corn price next year might be only slightly less than the average of $4.50 projected for the current year.

Producers reported intentions to plant a record 81.493 million acres of soybeans in 2014, 4.96 million more than planted last year and about 300,000 more than expected.  More acres are planned in all major states, with North Dakota leading the way with a one million acre increase.  Intentions exceed last year’s plantings by 700,000 acres in Minnesota and by 600,000 acres in North Dakota.

Of the major production states, intentions are less than last year’s plantings only in Missouri.  Planting intentions point to harvested acreage near 80.7 million.  A trend yield of 44.5 bushels, then, would point to a crop of 3.59 billion bushels, 300 million bushels larger than the 2013 crop. A crop of that size would likely lead to inventories in excess of 300 million bushels by the end of the 2014-15 marketing year and suggests that the average soybean price next year will be sharply lower than the average of $12.95 projected for the current year.

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Planting intentions for all grains are 6.148 million acres less than last year’s plantings, including a 1.38 million acre reduction in sorghum.  Planting intentions for oilseeds are 5.82 million larger than last year’s plantings.   Intentions for all crops reported in the March survey, including harvested acreage of hay, are only 650,000 acres greater than last year’s plantings when an unusually large 8.3 million acres were reported as prevented plantings.  Some northern producers may have factored in some prevented plantings for 2014 when responding to the survey, but there is some likelihood that total crop acreage will exceed intentions.   Weather permitting, larger feed grain acreage seems most likely.