Most of the focus on 2011 U.S. planted acreage centers on corn acreage. There are a number of reasons for that focus, said University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

“First, under the current policy regime, there is a mandate of 13 billion gallons of renewable biofuels production during the 2011-12 corn marketing year that begins on Sept. 1, 2011. Almost all of that mandate is being met by corn-based ethanol production. The mandate implies that a minimum of 4.65 billion bushels of corn will be used for ethanol production during the 2011-12 marketing year,” he said.

Use in other categories of consumption is influenced by available supply, demand and price. Consumption of corn for food and industrial purposes other than ethanol is currently running at about 1.4 billion bushels per year.

“Typically, U.S. corn exports are near 2 billion bushels per year, and feed use is currently near 5.2 billion bushels per year. With adequate supplies then, use of corn during the 2011-12 marketing year might be near 13.25 billion bushels. All of that potential consumption must be met from 2011 production because stocks at the end of the current year are expected to be at pipeline levels,” he added.

The supply-and-demand environment for the other two major crops, wheat and soybeans, is fundamentally different than for corn.

“For wheat, domestic stocks at the end of the current marketing year (May 31, 2011) are expected to be relatively large, accounting for 33.6 percent of expected use during the current marketing. In addition, winter wheat seedings were reported to be 3.7 million larger than seedings in the fall of 2009.”

Even though the hard red winter wheat crop is not in good condition, there is potential for an adequate crop in 2011 with more favorable spring weather. Furthermore, wheat is produced in large quantities in a number of countries so there is opportunity for foreign production to rebound from the depressed level of the past year.

“Under more favorable spring weather conditions, for example, wheat seedings in Canada could rebound from the low level of 2010. Russian wheat production was also depressed in 2010 due to severe drought conditions,” Good said.

For soybeans, stocks at the end of the current marketing year are expected to be very small, but prospects remain good for a large South American harvest that is currently under way. The Brazilian crop could exceed the record harvest of 2009, and China is already buying South American soybeans.

In addition, U.S. soybean acreage in 2011 will get a boost from the large increase in soft red winter wheat acreage and the opportunity for double-cropping of soybeans. A return to a normal level of double-cropping from the low level of 2010 would add 2 million acres of double-cropped soybeans. Finally, a shortfall in U.S. soybean production in 2011 could be offset by a large acreage response in South America for harvest a year from now.