* US farmers to plant 95.9 mln acres of corn
* Soybean spring wheat acres seen down from last year
By Tom Polansek and Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, March 30 U.S. farmers will plant the
most corn in 75 years to cash in on higher prices, topping
expectations due to surprise reductions in soybean and spring
wheat sowings, according to a U.S government report on Friday.
The dramatic expansion raised hopes that the next harvest
would ease razor-tight supplies that have kept corn prices near
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a separate report,
said supplies in storage as of March 1 were smaller than
"Going forward, it's going to be all about the planting
weather," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities.
In the annual prospective plantings survey, farmers were
aiming to plant record amounts of corn in Iowa, Minnesota, North
Dakota, South Dakota and Idaho.
Nationally, the plantings outlook was up 4 percent from
last year and above analyst expectations for 94.72 million
Soybean plantings were projected to fall 1 percent from
last year to 73.9 million acres, increasing concerns about
tightening global supplies of the oilseed due to poor harvests
in South America. Analysts had expected soy plantings to
increase to 75.393 million acres.
"Acreage is expected to shift to corn," the USDA said.
Farmers are focusing on corn because prices remain lofty
after reaching a record high last year on strong demand that
drained supplies. The increase in plantings should boost
supplies, which have been forecast to drop to the lowest level
since the mid-1990s by the end of the crop's marketing year in
If USDA's projection holds, it will be the most corn planted
since 1937 when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted.
USDA estimated farmers will plant 12 million acres of spring
wheat other than durum, with a record low number of acres seeded
in South Dakota. That is down 3 percent from last year and below
the average trade estimate of 13.313 million acres.
USDA's projection for a total wheat planted area of 55.9
million acres was up 3 percent from 2011 but well below the
average analyst estimate of 57.422 million acres.
Growers intended to plant 13.2 million acres of cotton, down
11 percent from last year, and 2.56 million acres of rice, down
5 percent, according to the USDA report.
The acreage estimates implied a corn harvest of 14.5 billion
bushels, a soy harvest of 3.2 billion bushels, wheat harvest of
2.1 billion bushels and cotton harvest of 18 million bales,
according to Reuters calculations that assume a normal number of
abandoned acres and normal weather and yields.
The U.S. corn stockpile was down 8 percent from a year ago,
the government said, with consumption running faster than
In a quarterly report, the Agriculture Department said there
were 6.009 billion bushels of corn in storage as of March 1, 2
percent less than traders expected. Some 3.6 billion bushels
were consumed during the quarter, equal to 30 percent of the
Traders estimated consumption would be 4 percent smaller
than USDA estimated. USDA surveyed 84,500 growers and all 8,900
commercial storage facilities to develop its figures.
Soybean stocks were estimated by USDA at 1.372 billion
bushels, up 10 percent from a year ago but 1 percent smaller
than traders expected. Some 994 billion bushels were consumed
since Dec. 1.
Wheat stocks totaled 1.201 billion bushels, according to
USDA, down 16 percent from a year ago and 2 percent less than
Slightly more than half of the corn was held on the farm.
USDA said it had a margin of error of 4.4 percent for the
on-farm figure for corn.
Traders have faulted USDA's stocks figures during the past
year and varied among themselves of the likely March 1 level.
Strong demand for corn for exports and making ethanol were
expected to eat into U.S. supplies, but some traders said the
mild winter would reduce corn used for livestock feed.
(Editing By Russell Blinch)