Some economists predict TOTAL land devoted to corn, wheat, soybean and cotton will increase by as much as 3 million acres this year. The collective gain would be realized by converting some pasture land to row crops and, potentially, by double-cropping wheat and soybeans in some regions.
And while America's total acreage is expected to increase, prospects for some crops are better than others. And so begins the great acreage battle of 2008.
Enticed by record futures prices that exceeded $10.00 per bushel briefly last week, America's farmers are projected to plant 64.4 million acres in wheat... up about 7 percent from last year.
According to USDA, exporters already report sales of more than 90 percent of the 1.1 billion bushels of wheat forecast to be sold abroad for the entire marketing year, which ends in June.
Soybean prices also are at record levels and that, coupled with bullish export numbers prompted USDA to predict growers will plant 70 million acres in soybeans... an increase of nearly 10 percent from 2007. Domestic wheat shippers report sales of about 75 percent of the nearly one billion bushels the predicted to be exported this season.
And while growers planted the most acreage in corn last year since World War II, those numbers are expected to decline dramatically in 2008. USDA predicts about 88 million acres will be planted in corn this year. That's down 12 percent from 2007.
Still, prices for most agricultural commodities remain at favorable levels -- at least for producers...
Last week, the government reported its index for overall agricultural prices was up 26 percent from the previous year.