U.S. Soybean Acres to Rise to Record After Rains Trigger Shift to Oilseeds

U.S. farmers will sow more soybeans than ever this year after rains forced them to switch away from corn, cotton and wheat, which need to be planted earlier, the Department of Agriculture said.

A record 78.868 million acres will be planted with the oilseed, up 1.8 percent from 77.451 million last year, the USDA said today in a report based on a survey of farmers. In a survey in March, growers said they intended to plant 78.098 million acres. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News expected 78.161 million acres, on average.

“The perception in the trade is that the acreage will be lower yet because wet weather in June prevented farmers from finishing planting all the acres they intended,” said Dale Durchholz, the senior market analyst for AgriVisor LLC in Bloomington, Illinois. “Still, the final crop size will be determined by the weather in August,” when soybeans set pods and fill them with beans, Durchholz said before the report.

Soybean futures for November delivery yesterday fell 6.5 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $9.12 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. The most-active futures have dropped 13 percent this year.

Some fields from Nebraska to central Ohio received as much as four times the normal rainfall the past 30 days, according to the High Plains Regional Climate Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Farmer Survey

The USDA report is based on a survey of about 88,000 farmers and 11,000 field samples collected during the first two weeks of June, as the planting season neared completion. As of June 27, 97 percent of the crop was sown, the USDA said earlier this week. The department in August will release its first estimate of soybean production, based on today’s acreage forecast.

Last year, farmers harvested a record 3.359 billion bushels of soybeans. The average yield was 44 bushels per acre, the most ever, according to the USDA. The results came after flooding delayed planting and wet, cool weather in August boosted yields.

The USDA also surveyed farmers about the use of genetically modified seeds. About 93 percent of the total soybean acreage was planted with gene-engineered seeds this year, up from 91 percent last year, the government said.

Soybean stockpiles left over from last year’s harvest totaled 571 million bushels as of June 1, down 4.2 percent from 596 million a year earlier, the USDA said in a separate report. That’s the smallest inventory since 2004. Eight analysts in a Bloomberg survey expected 592 million bushels, on average.

“There’s no immediate worry about U.S. soybean supplies,” after farmers in Brazil and Argentina completed harvesting a record crop last month, up 37 percent from a year earlier, Durchholz said.

Soybeans are the second-biggest U.S. crop, valued last year at a record $31.8 billion, according to the USDA. Corn is the top crop, with a 2008 value of $48.6 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Wilson in Chicago at jwilson29@bloomberg.net.

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