Iowa farmers planted an estimated 10.1 million acres of soybeans this year, which is 500,000 more acres than USDA projected in March. That's according to the June 30 USDA Acreage report, the government's first official survey of actual plantings in 2014. It is 800,000 more soybean acres than were planted in 2013.
Soybeans have made a major comeback nationally as well. A record 84.8 million acres were planted in the U.S. this spring, up 11% from last year. If this turns out to be the final number, this year's soybean acreage will surpass the previous high mark by more than 7.4 million acres.
"This blows the old record out of the water and beats the trade estimates by more than 2.6 million acres," says Grant Kimberley, director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association and a central Iowa farmer. "Corn may be king in the U.S., but soybeans are knocking at the palace gates."
Boost in soybean acres reflects profit potential
However, Kimberley notes recent torrential rains and hail and wind damage in areas of Iowa and the Upper Midwest weren't accounted for in the report. Harvested acres will likely end up being less than estimated. With this recent flooding and hail, some people estimate crop acreage losses statewide at 1% this year in Iowa. The USDA Acreage report forecasts harvested acreage to be 10 million acres in 2014.
ISA member Jim Fitkin, who farms near Cedar Falls, says the Cedar River has claimed some soybeans and corn, and standing water is common after about 10 inches of rain in the last two weeks. "But to the other extreme, I have a few bare spots in fields from the ground being too dry at planting. It's been a challenging year so far," Fitkin says.
ISA president Brian Kemp, who farms near Sibley in northwest Iowa, says the boost in soybean acres in 2014 is a reflection of the profit potential of soybeans. Record exports, especially to China, are a big reason why. The U.S. sold a record 1.58 billion bushels in 2013 to foreign buyers, valued at nearly $28 billion. With only a few months left in the current marketing year, soybean exports are on pace to set a new record. One of China's largest soybean crushers recently agreed to buy $100 million worth of U.S. beans during a visit to Des Moines.
Also other reasons behind this year's bean acreage boost
"Soybean producers are simply reacting to market demands," Kemp says. "It appears that world demand for protein will continue to increase with a growing world population and improved diets. Soybeans are the preferred protein source."
Kimberley notes that increased corn rootworm pressure and a desire by growers to return to a more balanced crop rotation also played a factor in this year's soybean acreage boost in Iowa.
The USDA Quarterly Grains Stocks Report, also released June 30, pegs soybeans stored in all positions nationwide as of June 1 at 405 million bushels, down 7% from the previous year. On-farm stocks totaled 109 million bushels, down 36% from a year ago. Kimberley says the stocks number is a "bit of a head scratcher" given the fact that China is still buying old crop soybeans and the U.S. crush rate has remained strong. Analysts thought the USDA stocks report would show even fewer beans on hand than a year ago.
Soybean prices fell on June 30 due to the bearish report. But the U.S. dollar is still relatively low, which makes the international price of soybeans very attractive. "That will eventually pump up demand and strengthen prices in the future," Kimberley says.
Corn planting in Iowa is 13.6 million acres, unchanged from 2013
Corn planted for all purposes in Iowa is estimated at 13.6 million acres, unchanged from 2013, but down 400,000 acres from the March intentions, according to USDA's June 30 Acreage report. Corn to be harvested for grain is forecasted at 13.2 million acres.
Nationwide, corn planted acreage for all purposes in 2014 is estimated at 91.6 million acres, down 4% from last year. This represents the lowest planted acreage in the U.S. since 2010; however, this is the fifth largest corn acreage in the U.S. since 1944.
The June 30 grain stocks report indicated the U.S. had 3.85 billion bushels of corn on hand, up 39% from a year earlier. Both corn and soybean prices tumbled on June 30 upon release of the USDA planted acreage and grain stocks estimates.
"Iowa and the U.S. could see record corn and soybean production this year. With corn, it depends on yields. For beans, it's just the sheer number of acres planted in 2014," says Chad Hart, Iowa State University Extension economist. He believes Iowa's increase in soybean acres represents in large part a return of land that farmers were unable to plant last year because conditions were too wet in spring 2013. USDA reported that Iowa had about 730,000 acres that weren't planted last year.
Iowa's hay acreage is lowest since records began
An estimated 1.08 million acres will be harvested for hay in Iowa in 2014, the state's lowest harvested acreage since records began in 1909. Of the total, 730,000 acres of alfalfa will be harvested and 350,000 acres of other hay will be harvested.
Acreage seeded to oats is estimated at 140,000 acres, down 80,000 from 2013 but 10,000 acres above the March planting intentions. Oat acreage to be harvested for grain is forecast at 65,000 acres. Acres seeded to winter wheat last fall in Iowa are estimated at 35,000 acres, up 5,000 acres from 2013. Winter wheat acreage to be harvested for grain is forecast at 25,000 acres.
With the U.S. soybean acreage estimated at a record high 84.8 million acres, up 11% from 2013, where is that increase coming from besides Iowa? Record high planted acreage is also estimated in Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Survey also looks at acres planted to genetically modified seed
In USDA's Acreage survey, farmers also report the percent of genetically modified (GM) seed varieties used to plant their 2014 corn and soybean acres.
The percent of Iowa's 13.6 million corn acres planted to insect resistant (Bt) varieties is estimated at 4%, herbicide resistant only varieties were planted on 8% of the acres, and stacked gene varieties were planted on 83% of the acres. Overall, 95% of the corn was planted to GM seed.
Of Iowa's 10.1 million acres of soybeans this year, 97% are planted to GM seed, all of which is herbicide resistant GM seed.