Daylight Savings Time begins this week and serves as another reminder that farmers soon will be in the fields to participate in the annual rite of spring planting. Cautious optimism can be found in much of the heartland, thanks, in part, to a series of rain and snowstorms that swept across much of the nation in March. The trend continued this week as strong thunderstorms brought welcome rains to much of the Midwest. Even though some producers remain concerned over inadequate subsoil moisture in some regions, the major factor affecting prices this week was the government. And the Agriculture Department turned a few heads in the grain pits Friday with its annual "Prospective Plantings Report."
USDA is estimating total corn acreage at 78 million acres - down 5 percent from last year. Corn prices rallied on the news since the reduction in acreage is about twice as much as traders anticipated.
While corn acreage declines the government is predicting just the opposite for soybeans. According to USDA, farmers intend to plant 76.9 million acres of soybeans this year -- well above the 74 million acres expected by the trade. If realized, it would be North America's largest planting of soybeans on record.
All wheat plantings are estimated at 57.1 million acres, down slightly from 2005 and 1.2 million acres less than traders were expecting. If realized, it would be the lowest total wheat acreage since 1972.
Cotton producers are expected to plant 14.6 million acres in cotton this year. That figure is down slightly from last year, but pretty much in line with trade guesses.
USDA also released its quarterly stocks report this week indicating ample, if not burdensome, supplies of virtually all the major commodities.