As America's farmers and ranchers begin the annual rite of spring planting, officials in the Grain Belt are urging motorists and farm-vehicle operators alike to be cautious on rural roads.
In Iowa, a perennial leader in corn production, the Department of Transportation reported this week there were 215 collisions last year involving farm equipment. The mishaps caused 14 major injuries and six fatalities.
The Agriculture Department also released new data this week. And if the estimates prove to be correct there are going to be lot of planters on the roads -- and in the fields -- in the days ahead.
Farmers are expected to plant record soybean and corn acreage this year. According to a USDA report released this week, producers will plant 78.1 million acres of soybeans in 2010, an increase of about one percent from last year's record numbers. And farmers are set to plant 88.8 million acres of corn, up three percent from 2009.
Meanwhile, the wheat crop is estimated at 53.8 million acres, down nine percent from last year. And the cotton crop is forecast to rise 15 percent to 10.5 million acres.
USDA predicts the higher than expected supply forecast will boost overall grain reserves and likely will drive down food prices. The total area planted in major food crops nationwide will hold steady at 319.5 million acres, after declining nearly six percent in 2009.
Futures prices reacted bearishly to Wednesday's report with nearby soybean prices falling more than 30 cents on the news.