Avoid a potential misread on U.S. planting pace in delayed states -Braun

NAPERVILLE, Ill. (Reuters) -U.S. corn planting is running at the second-slowest pace in more than a quarter-century and spring wheat planting is the slowest on record, and the full acreage potential has rightfully come into question.

FILE PHOTO: Corn and soybeans await much needed rain after a historically dry growing season outside of Yankton, South Dakota, U.S. August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Karen Braun/File Photo

Excessively wet and cool weather has plagued the northern U.S. Plains this spring, putting farmers in North Dakota, northern Minnesota and parts of South Dakota far behind schedule. Final planting dates for crop insurance are rapidly approaching, and the current pace suggests some of these acres will go unplanted this year.

However, it is important to understand how the decision to claim prevent plant may be reflected in weekly planting progress numbers. It could suggest a more productive pace than what actually occurred or it might imply that current acreage targets are sound.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistics service (NASS) issues national crop progress reports weekly from April through November. Crop progress estimates are taken from local agriculture experts, primarily county extension agents, with a goal of at least one report from each county.

The respondents are making subjective judgments based on what they are seeing and hearing, and they estimate weekly planting progress in the county based on what they assume the total planting intentions are on that date. The percentage is not derived from NASS’s March intentions report, which gives expected plantings at the state and national level, not county.

For example, if a respondent hears that a lot of local farmers gave up on corn one week and decided to plant soybeans or take prevented planting payments instead, they will factor that in to their assessment of overall planting progress. This is how a state could appear to have made significant weekly planting progress without one single planter having gone into the field.

That may not have been the case so much in the last week, as most of North Dakota has a final planting date of May 25 for corn, May 31 or June 5 for spring wheat, and June 10 for soybeans. Central and southern Minnesota has until May 31 on corn.

But the “prevent plant” effect on sowing pace could come into play in the next couple of weeks. Pay attention to the observed weather and the number of days NASS shows as suitable for fieldwork in that week. In the week ended May 22, North Dakota had 3.2 days suitable versus 1.9 in the prior week.

NASS on Monday afternoon pegged U.S. corn planting progress at 72% complete as of Sunday versus 49% a week earlier and a five-year average of 79%. North Dakota corn reached 20% versus 4% a week earlier and 66% average.

U.S. spring wheat was just 49% planted as of Sunday, the slowest for the date since records began in 1981. That compares with 39% in the prior week and an 83% average.

North Dakota was 27% complete on spring wheat planting versus 80% average and 17% a week earlier, and Minnesota was just 11% complete, up from 5% in the prior week and far below the 90% average. Those two states produce two-thirds of the U.S. spring wheat crop.

Some states are doing better than others, and many have caught up to near-normal levels on corn and soybean planting over the last two weeks. Most areas dealt with bouts of excessive rainfall and cool temperatures earlier in the spring that had slowed fieldwork.

U.S. soybean planting at 50% complete is much less delayed than corn or wheat given its 55% average for May 22. However, North Dakota, which plants the fourth-largest soy area in the country, is moving at the slowest-ever pace with just 7% finished as of Sunday, well off the 47% average.

Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

Graphic- North Dakota soybean planting progresshere

Editing by Matthew Lewis