The scuttlebutt in the trade, even in the numbers released by USDA at its February Agricultural Outlook Forum, is that the economics will push farmers to plant a lot more corn acres this year.
Ag Economist Gary Schnitkey has updated budgets for corn and soybeans across the state. He knows USDA increased its expectation for corn acres around the nation by about 3 million acres but says he does not expect a big shift to corn in Illinois, “What we find is that corn is projected to be more profitable than soybeans. This is the first year in a while that has happened. However, our budgets do not suggest shifting to more corn production. Particularly corn-after-corn is less profitable than soybeans. So, it is status quo for the central Illinois area with a 50/50 corn/soybean rotation being more profitable for 2019.”
This holds for northern and central Illinois. Southern Illinois still has a regionalized economic bias to plant soybeans. Soybeans make more money there says Schnitkey, “However, the big thing right now is the upcoming USDA Prospective Plantings report and whether we will see shifts from soybean to corn which some people are expecting. These budgets would say in the heart of the corn belt, or in the corn belt in general, that you won’t see shifts from soybeans to corn. So, you have to see those shifts from someplace else and there are limited opportunities there.”
USDA in its February Outlook meeting projected U.S. farmers would plant about three percent more corn acres this season than last and almost five percent fewer soybean acres. The agency will release an official estimate of acreage March 29th.