The outlook for 2012 is that we’re in for another acreage battle among the major crops, especially in the Southeast, where soybeans, peanuts, cotton and corn all will be competing for land.

When assessing the market outlook for soybeans, this factor must be taken into account, says University of Georgia Extension economist Nathan Smith.

“Prices for soybeans, like for other crops, are up over last year,” says Smith. “And when you look at the global demand for soybeans, it continues to grow, with China being the primary driver.”

Soybean prices are up approximately 20 percent from this time last year, he says, and global demand for soybeans and soybean products continues to show gains.

“When you look at the conditions for U.S. soybeans in 2011, they have continued to deteriorate, with below 55 percent of the crop being in the good to excellent range,” he says. Most growers were late planting this year, he adds, and the progress of the soybean crop has been late throughout the growing season.

“The late crop is reflected in the lower average yield projection compared with 2010,” says Smith. “There’s still the risk of running into weather problems as we harvest this crop, and with a late crop, the risk is even greater.”

Recalling the acreage battle from this past spring, soybeans lost some acres to corn, he says. U.S. acreage in 2011 was pegged at about 75 million, down about 3 percent from 2010, and harvested acres are projected to be down by about 4.2 percent due to problems experienced by growers during the spring. Yield is expected to be down by about 4 percent from last year with total production decreasing by 7.3 percent.

“Most of the soybean acres that were lost were in the Southeast this past year, with the exception of Arkansas, Kentucky and Virginia,” says Smith. “Oklahoma and Georgia basically cut their acres in half.”

Some states have rotation issues when it comes to corn and soybeans, but that’s not the case with states like Georgia, he says. Whether soybean acres go up or down in 2012 will depend on what corn prices do.

The estimated average yield for this year is below the trend yield for the United States, says Smith, with the trend average being approximately 44 bushels per acre.

“Looking at production and total use, we’re actually projecting use now to be a little bit higher than total production.