MANKATO — Farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1936, the USDA’s spring planting survey said Thursday.
The report, coupled with hopes of a relaxing of drought conditions in much of the Corn Belt, had corn prices tumbling 40 cents a bushel, the maximum they can fall in a single day.
“Locally today, after the report was released, the markets closed with corn down to $5 a bushel for new crop price,” said Kent Thiesse, agriculture analyst and vice president at MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal.
He said corn at or below $5 will make profitability tough for many farmers. “Most farmers are at that $4.50 to $5 (per bushel) range for input costs, land costs machinery. So that’s getting to the break even point.”
The overall American corn acreage forecast is up slightly from last year’s 97.2 million acres and reflects a shift in where the grain is grown. Acreage in some states hit hardest by last year’s drought retreated, while Southern states such as Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas are shifting cotton acres to corn.
Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University, said Texas is a prime example. The state is changing more than 1 million acres normally planted in cotton for corn. Farmers there are in desperate need of grain to feed livestock after two years of debilitating drought, and are betting on a corn crop to replenish feed, Hart said.
Corn remains profitable, as prices are holding strong at around $7 per bushel because drought conditions left the grain in short supply. Corn stocks fell 10 percent from a year ago to 5.40 billion bushels, the lowest March stockpiles since 2003, the USDA said in a separate report Thursday.
Corn prices fell Thursday after the report was released, as it showed there was 7 percent more corn stockpiled than expected.