What happened to soybean acreage in the Deep South? Prices are good, planting conditions are better for later than early planted crops, and optimism seemed high back in March.

Crop updates released in early July by the USDA indicate a drop of about 200,000 acres of soybeans in the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and Florida from the March USDA Planting Intentions Survey.

By far, the biggest reduction in actual planting versus, March planting intentions came in the Carolinas. South Carolina growers projected back in March to plant 510,000 acres of beans, but July plantings showed only 400,000 or so acres actually planted.

North Carolina growers estimated in March they would plant 1,490,000 acres of beans, which would have been down about 60,000 acres from 2010. They actually planted only 1,420,000 acres in 2011.

If demand drives price, then price fluctuations between March and planting time shouldn’t be the issue. Soybean prices have remained high from the March planting intention survey until planting season. In early July, soybeans sold for $13.28 per bushel, up about four percent from March and within 4 cents per bushel of the high prices for the year.

Not only have soybean prices remained high from last year’s harvest until this year’s planting, there is significant optimism that prices will remain high.

Late planting in the heart of U.S. soybean production areas and up and down production in South America doesn’t offer much hope of significantly raising world soybean stocks, which bodes well for prices.

A record soybean crop of over 70 million tons in Brazil was offset by lower than average yields in Argentina and other South American countries, except Uruguay.

Soybean producing countries in the Northern Hemisphere are looking at reduced production, based on delayed planting. The sum of world production should add up to longer-run high prices for soybeans.

Herb Vanderberry, director of ag statistics in North Carolina, says two factors play into the increased reduction of soybean acres: A good memory among farmers and dry weather.