Last Friday’s controversial USDA acreage report has producers and traders alike questioning the survey methodology and, ultimately, the accuracy of USDA’s estimated 91.7 million corn acres and 80 million soybean acres for 2019.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said Bruce Sutherland, president of the Lansing-based Michigan Agricultural Commodities Inc. “Where are those acres coming from? It’s certainly not what we’re seeing driving around the country-side.”
That confusion applies right here in Michigan, as well, according to Sutherland. He estimates that only 85% of the state’s corn crop and 70% of the soybean crop were actually planted, a far cry from USDA’s acreage figures of 97.9% for corn and 95.5% for soybeans for Michigan.
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USDA figures show the state’s corn growers planted 2.3 million acres, the same as last year and down 50,000 acres from the March Intentions report. Michigan soybean acres, according to USDA, were estimated at 2.1 million acres, just a 100,000 acres shy of March intentions.
Based on the time of the USDA producer surveys in early-June, Michigan Farm Bureau Field Crops Specialist Theresa Sisung said the “acreage report” should be viewed as a “planting intentions report,” rather than a report of actual acres planted.
"At the time of the survey, many farmers were still trying to decide what — or even if they could — plant,” Sisung said. “Based on this USDA report, there’s over 300,000 phantom planted corn acres and another 560,000 phantom acres of soybeans in Michigan that most in the industry can’t account for.”
Sutherland also contends that Tuesday morning’s wide-spread rains across the state will bring a stop to much further progress on additional soybean acres actually being planted.
“Most producers were saying they would plant soybeans through this week, but with this morning’s rain, I think we’re done,” he said.
USDA has indicated an intention to re-interview 13 of the 18 major corn-producing states in July for the August production report, which Sutherland and Sisung both agree is needed for better clarity.
“Another survey is definitely warranted here,” Sutherland said.
Sisung also questions USDA’s conflicting methodology and conclusions for the June Acreage Report compared to the USDA’s World Ag Supply & Demand (WASDE) report, which actually showed an acreage decrease — while the June Acreage report showed an increase.
“WASDE utilizes many different sources including FSA, NASS and the Ag Marketing Service to come up with their estimates while the Acreage Report uses farmer surveys, so really they are trying to determine planted acreage using two totally different methods,” Sisung said.
Producers can expect the market volatility witnessed since last Friday’s report to continue as more accurate acreage figures, crop condition and weather come into play, according to Sutherland, stressing that knowing your cost of production is a critical first step.
“Assuming you have a crop, utilizing options may be a good strategy to get some price protection, but also allow you to take advantage of upside market potential,” Sutherland added.