UPDATE: Catch a replay of the Farm Futures survey announcement and 2015 planting outlook webinar now!
Stressed margins continue to roil farmer planting decisions this spring, forcing major shifts in crop choices for 2015, according to Farm Futures' latest survey of growers. In addition to planting less corn and more soybeans, producers are searching for other crops to grow as they try to pencil out a profit.
Farm Futures found growers gearing up to plant 88.34 million acres of corn this spring, down 2.5% from 2014 and slightly lower than the 88.51 million from the magazine's last survey in January. Farmers said they were ready to put in 87.25 million acres of soybeans, easily an all-time high, and 4.2% more than the record set in 2014.
Still, the latest total for soybeans was more than 1 million less than Farm Futures found in January, after soybean margins eroded this winter. While soybeans cost less to plant, they could lose more money per acre if prices don't improve, said Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures market analyst, who conducted the survey.
"Growers are interested in preserving cash, with farmers in most areas of the country ready to jump on the soybean bandwagon," Knorr said. "This was especially true down into the Delta, where cotton should lose acres."
Even farmers who enjoyed record corn yields last year from Missouri into central Illinois look like they will switch to soybeans this spring, he said.
Knorr first shared the survey data in Farm Futures' 2015 planting outlook webinar, March 18.
Continue reading after the jump >>
Another crop that farmers are looking at more closely is sorghum. Prices of the feed grain, which normally trade at a discount to corn, surged over the past year due to aggressive buying from China. High domestic prices in China and lack of U.S. imported corn have processors there scrambling for cheaper alternatives. "We found farmers ready to plant 8.4 million acres of sorghum this spring, up 18% from 2014," Knorr said.
Growers also said they're looking to plant other alternatives to traditional row crops, some 15% to 20% more than in the past.
One choice on the northern Plains getting a lot of attention is durum. While wheat prices linger near five-year lows, durum rallied after weather problems in the U.S. and Canada. Acres in the U.S. could jump 16% in 2015, according to the Farm Futures survey, up to 1.6 million. Spring wheat seedings could also rise, up 2.6% to 13.4 million. The survey put total wheat acres at 55.6 million, down 2.1% from 2014, though winter wheat seedings could be slightly higher than USDA reported in January.
Farm Futures surveyed 1,297 growers in 41 states by email from Feb. 27 to March 16.