There has been a major push by many producers for USDA to release Conservation Reserve Program acres early without penalties so they can take advantage of high commodity prices. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer has said that won't happen this year and he's taking it under advisement for 2009.
With prices at record highs, farmers are looking for any extra acres they can find to plant. According to Farm Futures market analyst Arlan Suderman a lot of folks are looking at putting pasture land into row crops.
"USDA thinks we'll see quite a bit of pasture land come out," Suderman says. "We're hearing anecdotal stories of farmers tearing up pasture land in states like Missouri and Iowa and presumably some to the west. The big question is how much is that."
Farm Futures released their survey of farmer's planting intentions for corn, soybeans and wheat last week and Suderman says it shows a high probability of pasture land being converted to crops.
"If you add up our numbers, our numbers add up to more land than last year," Suderman says. "So incumbent in that is the assumption that we've had some CRP acres come out; probably about 1.8 million or so. It's a little hard to tell exactly how much, but it's going to be somewhere between one and a half and two million acres and then the rest of it would be pasture land most likely."
USDA had some possible numbers for pasture to row crops at their Outlook Conference in February, but Suderman says that is speculation and that no one really knows how much will be converted, but to expect some.
"When prices are like they are now," Suderman says, "Farmers tend to plant closer to the fences looking for extra acres and will likely put some pasture back into row crop production."