USDA Expected to Project Record Soy Plantings

By Jesse Newman Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. farmers are expected to sow more soybeans than ever this year, according to analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue two key reports on Friday, estimating planted acreage and grain stockpiles as concerns over weather and crop conditions dog the start of the nation's growing season.

Analysts expect the USDA to say U.S. farmers planted a record 89.946 million acres with soybeans this year, up nearly 8% from 2016, according to the poll. That figure would mark an increase from the government's previous estimate for 89.482 million soybean acres released in March.

Farm economics are driving a shift from corn and wheat to soybeans this year, with farmers favoring the oilseeds because they cost less to produce than corn and enjoy strong demand from foreign importers like China. Such calculations are key as U.S. growers navigate a multiyear slump in the farm sector that has battered crop prices and incomes.

Expectations that soybean area will increase slightly from the USDA's initial report on planting intentions in March come after excess rainfall this spring prevented or delayed corn planting in parts of the Farm Belt. That likely prompted farmers to switch more fields from corn to soybeans, analysts say.

The USDA's report will be a first step to settling debates over "what are the real corn acres," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities, a brokerage in West Des Moines, Iowa.

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The USDA likely will peg planted corn acres at 89.82 million, down nearly 5% from last year, according to the poll. That would be a 0.2% decline from the government's March estimate. All-wheat acreage likely will be estimated at 46.045 million acres, down 8% from 2016, the poll showed.

The USDA is scheduled to release its acreage report at noon EDT on Friday.

In a separate report, the government will also estimate grain stockpiles as of June 1, which analysts expect to show growing crop inventories thanks to bumper harvests last year.

Analysts anticipate federal forecasters will peg U.S. corn stockpiles at the beginning of the month at 5.16 billion bushels, a nearly 10% increase from the same date last year.

Soybean inventories on hand at the start of June will likely come in at 981 million bushels, up more than 12% from a year ago, analysts indicated.

Wheat reserves on June 1 are seen at 1.154 billion bushels, an 18% increase from last year.

Write to Jesse Newman at jesse.newman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 28, 2017 21:24 ET (01:24 GMT)