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Despite low prices, corn acreage expected to rise

Following a nationwide trend, South Dakota farmers are expected to grow more corn this year than in 2015, but soybean numbers could take a dip. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, S...

Corn (Republic file photo)
Corn (Republic file photo)

Following a nationwide trend, South Dakota farmers are expected to grow more corn this year than in 2015, but soybean numbers could take a dip.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, South Dakota farmers are expected to plant 5.7 million acres of corn, 6 percent higher than last year's 5.4 million acres.

Farmers face a challenge, however, as the price paid for corn in South Dakota dropped to $3.23 a bushel in February, the fourth-lowest price in five years, only higher than August through October 2014. On Monday, corn in the Mitchell area was listed at about $3 per bushel.

The median price paid for corn in South Dakota over the past five years is $5.37 per bushel. The highest was $7.39 offered in August 2012.

"Last year, in our area, we had record crops," said farmer Reid Suelflow, 31, of White Lake. "It's not going to be a good year if we have average or below-average yields with prices."

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Suelflow plans to dedicate 40 percent of his farm acreage to corn, but unlike last year, he doesn't plan to grow soybeans.

The number of soybeans planted is expected to drop across the state. South Dakota farmers plan on growing 5 million acres of soybeans in 2016, down 3 percent from 2015.

The fall corresponds with a dip in price received. South Dakota farmers received $8.15 per bushel for soybeans in February, the lowest price in the last five years. For comparison, the median price is $12.65 per bushel, and the highest price was $16 per bushel in August 2012.

According to USDA, farmers nationwide are expected to plant 93.6 million acres of corn in 2016, 6 percent higher than last year. If realized, it would be the third highest corn acreage planted since 1944.

Prospective soybean numbers, however, are expected to drop by less than 1 percent to 82.2 million acres.

Suelflow said he plans to replace his soybean acreage with cover crops and flowering species as part of a Natural Resources Conservation Service program to support pollinators like honeybees.

"They're trying to support pollinators because pollinators are losing habitat throughout the United States with farming practices," Suelflow said. "That's important in growing crops, your insects are, but it's also good for the ground."

Suelflow expects yields to fall from record highs to average levels this year, and with low prices, he will likely make more money from the pollinator program than he would from growing soybeans.

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Suelflow said he will begin planting corn and the flowering plants in May.

Wheat planted, meanwhile, is expected to fall by 9 percent to 49.6 million acres, and cotton is expected to rise by 11 percent to 9.56 million acres.

All wheat in South Dakota is expected to take a sharper drop than the national average. Farmers are expected to plant 2.284 million acres of wheat in the state, 17 percent lower than 2.756 million acres in 2015, which is comparable to the drop in winter wheat planted this year from 1.42 million acres to 1.15 million.

Suelflow planted winter wheat on ground that grew oats last year. The wheat is just starting to come out of dormancy, he said.

Oats and sorghum acreage in South Dakota is expected to drop from 325,000 to 310,000 and 270,000 to 250,000, respectively.

Sunflowers, too, are dropping by 11 percent to 605,000 acres.

According to USDA, frequent storms caused in part by a strong El Nino phase that brought warm air and moisture to the United States that decreased drought conditions across the country.

"December seemed like anything but a winter month, ranking first all-time for both United States warmth and wetness," a USDA report said.

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The winter as a whole was the warmest on record since the USDA began tracking winter temperatures in the United States in 1895 but was only the 12th wettest due to a drier February.

The Mitchell area received more than 40 inches of snow from November to February, approximately twice as much as accumulation of the same period in the prior winter, according to the National Weather Service.

Prospective planting information was gathered through surveys of farmers conducted in the first two weeks of March.

Related Topics: CORNSOYBEANSAGRICULTURE
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