USDA Reports Preview

USDA Reports Preview: Corn, Soybean Planting Intentions May Find Competition This Spring

Todd Hultman
By  Todd Hultman , DTN Lead Analyst
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USDA's survey of Prospective Plantings for 2022 and report of Quarterly Grain Stocks for March 1 will be released Thursday, March 31, at 11 a.m. CDT.

USDA's survey of Prospective Plantings for 2022 and report of Quarterly Grain Stocks for March 1 will be released Thursday, March 31 at 11 a.m. CDT. Given the importance of this year's outside market events, the numbers may not grab trader attention for very long, but they will offer new information to ponder.


During USDA's Annual Ag Outlook Forum in late February, USDA released early planting estimates of 92.0 million acres for corn, 88.0 million acres for soybeans and 48.0 million acres for wheat. Dow Jones' recent survey of 21 analysts expects USDA's survey to show producers intend to plant 92.0 million acres of corn, 88.8 million acres of soybeans and 47.8 million acres of wheat -- similar to USDA's February guesses.

Current new-crop prices above $6.00 for corn and above $14.00 for soybeans are higher than last year's new-crop corn price near $5.00 and soybean price near $12.50. However, last year's prices had the advantages of much cheaper fertilizer and fuel costs than what producers face today.

Planting went fairly quickly in 2021 with cooperation from favorable early weather. There were only 1.27 million prevented planting acres for corn, soybeans, and wheat in 2021, the lowest three-crop total in nine years. Other than a possible delay from below-normal temperatures in April 2022, this could also be a year when prevented plantings are low.

In January, USDA estimated U.S. winter wheat plantings for 2022-23 at 34.4 million acres, up roughly 750,000 acres from the previous year. The higher wheat plantings were understandable, given reduced world wheat supplies in late 2021 and cash hard red winter (HRW) wheat prices that were 50% higher in the fall of 2021 than the previous year.

Dow Jones' analysts expect USDA to stay with the same winter wheat estimate of 34.4 million Thursday, increase spring wheat plantings from 2021 by 307,000 acres to 11.7 million and increase durum plantings by 86,000 acres to 1.7 million. With current wheat prices extraordinarily high, it is possible Thursday's total U.S. wheat plantings could come in higher than Dow Jones' estimate of 47.8 million. Rescuing harvested wheat acres from drought may be the more difficult challenge in 2022.

This spring also finds higher prices of cotton, sorghum, oats, barley, canola and other less popular crops -- all of which could lure corn and soybean acres away from the Western Corn Belt in 2022.

Last year's planting conditions for corn and soybeans were about as good as could be imagined and the total for both crops came to 180.6 million acres. Dow Jones' survey is estimating 180.8 million acres of corn and soybean plantings in 2022 at a time when there is more competition from other crops. It may sound odd to say during this time of high corn and soybean prices, but don't be surprised if the two-crop total comes in less than expected, a potentially bullish finding for both new-crop corn and soybean prices.

As a final note, USDA's Prospective Plantings survey has had some misses the past few years, mostly for the corn estimate. Adverse planting weather disrupted producers' intentions in 2019 and it took USDA a long time to adjust its production estimates. In 2020, the survey overshot corn plantings by 6.3 million acres and last year the survey underestimated corn by 2.3 million acres. Thursday's numbers will offer some guidance until USDA's more reliable acreage estimates are released on June 30.


Dow Jones' survey expects USDA to find 7.885 billion bushels (bb) of corn on hand as of March 1, up 2% from last year's 7.696 bb and the second lowest stocks in six years. If true, corn demand in the first half of 2021-22 will have reached a record high 8.49 bb.

For soybeans, analysts estimate USDA will find 1.893 bb on hand March 1, up 21% from last year's 1.562 bb and the second lowest in five years. If that estimate is correct, soybean demand will have totaled 2.814 bb in the first half of 2021-22, the second highest on record.

March 1 wheat stocks are expected to total 1.064 bb, down 19% from last year's 1.311 bb and the lowest in 8 years. If true, wheat demand through three quarters of 2021-22 will total 1.522 bb, very close to the same level of three years ago, but also the lowest in over a decade.

USDA's March Grain Stocks report has revealed surprises before and I suspect we'll see at least one surprise this year. Ethanol demand for corn has been strong in 2021-22, but it is possible corn's high prices slowed feed use. For soybeans, old-crop export shipments are down 21% from a year ago, but the crush incentive has been strong most of the season.


Join us for DTN's webinar at 12:30 p.m. CDT Thursday, March 31. We'll go over USDA's new estimates, what they mean for prices and answer any questions you might have. Join us live on Thursday or use the link later provided to watch the webinar at your convenience. Register now at:…

QUARTERLY STOCKS (million bushels)
3/1/22 Avg High Low 12/1/21 3/1/21
Corn 7,885 8,087 7,630 11,647 7,696
Soybeans 1,893 1,965 1,602 3,149 1,562
Wheat 1,064 1,325 998 1,390 1,311
ACREAGE (million acres) USDA
3/31/22 Avg High Low 2020/21
Corn 92.0 93.5 89.7 93.4
Soybeans 88.8 92.2 86.0 87.2
All Wheat 47.8 48.9 46.2 46.7
Winter 34.4 35.6 33.7 33.6
Spring 11.7 12.5 10.5 11.4
Durum 1.7 1.8 1.5 1.6

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Todd Hultman