Despite spring "officially" beginning nearly two weeks ago, cool weather is slowing field work in much of the Midwest.
Still, the customary signs of spring are everywhere... the days are getting longer, daffodils are sprouting in some regions and migrating birds are returning from their winter homes.
One other tell-tale sign of spring was noted Thursday, when the Agriculture Department released its much-anticipated prospective plantings report.
According to USDA officials, U.S. farmers are expected to plant 5 percent more corn acres than last year. If realized it will be the second largest corn acreage since 1944 at 92.2 million acres. USDA says higher prices and better net returns of corn over other commodities is helping push the switch in acres. Government officials believe the increased corn crop should boost dwindling reserves and help meet demand for feed, food and biofuels.
The expected rise in corn acres is expected to be at the expense of soybeans acres but U.S. farmers could still plant the third largest crop in history at 76.6 million acres – a 1 percent drop over 2010. If realized, two states, New York and North Dakota, will plant a record number of soybeans acres.
Wheat acreage is predicted to increase by 8 percent over last year with 58 million acres expected to be put into production. A big factor in the higher number was an increase of winter wheat acres in Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri.
Cotton also is predicted to see a 15 percent increase in acreage over 2010 with a total of 12.6 million acres anticipated to be planted. The largest expansion is expected in Texas with almost half-a-million acres going to cotton.
The market reacted positively to the report with the nearby and deferred corn contracts going limit-up on the news. The wheat, cotton and bean markets also saw significant rallies following release of the details.