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Crop Report Shows More Farmers May Switch to Soybeans, Cut Back on Corn

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa - The "corn rush" of recent years appears over as more farmers are reacting to declining corn prices.

The first United States Agriculture Department (USDA) crop report of the new year showed farmers plan to switch more acres to soybeans. That report, released Monday, predicted a four percent drop in corn acres planted this spring. The 91.7 million acres forecast would be the lowest amount of land devoted to corn since 2010. Farmers anticipate planning as many as 81.5 million acres of soybeans this spring. That would be a six percent increase and if it holds true it would be an all-time record.

Jim Greif, a seed dealer near Prairieburg, said the switch to more soybeans didn't surprise him. He said it's what you'd expect when the price of corn that hit more than $8.00 a bushel in recent years has fallen back into the upper $4.00 a bushel range. He began to see some of that shifting last fall when farmers pre-ordered seed for the next spring. But rather than a dramatic shift, he sees it more as a switch back to a more normal crop rotation cycle.

"Those high prices for corn altered the way people were rotating crops around here. I think we will see a general drift back to a more normal corn-soybean rotation," Greif said.

Other farmers noted it takes more high-priced fertilizer to plant a corn crop. That's another incentive to shift some land to beans which haven't dropped as much in price compared to corn.

John Airy, Jr., a Linn County farmer and member of local corn and soybean boards, noted the boom in corn prices in recent years reflected higher demand, at least in part, by ethanol producers. Airy said the slight shift to beans shouldn't upset ethanol demand, or increase prices consumers pay at the pump for the blended fuels.

"By the end of summer, we'll have corn in the countryside in elevators available for the ethanol producers—more than we have had for the last three-four years. So we're got a long tail of crop from last year so that'll keep the corn price suppressed a little bit," Airy said.

Still frozen ground and a slow warm up could also change planting plans. Beans take less time to grow and some farmers could switch to that crop if they can't get corn planted in time.

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