DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1936, the USDA's spring planting survey said Thursday.
The survey said the 2013 corn planting forecast is up slightly from last year's 97.2 million acres.
Corn remains profitable, as prices are holding strong at around $7 per bushel after last year's severe drought left the grain in short supply. In a separate report, the USDA said corn stocks fell 10 percent from a year ago to 5.40 billion bushels.
Record corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Oregon. And Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer, will plant an estimated 14.2 million acres in corn, the same as last year.
But the states that suffered significantly during last year's drought — the worst since the 1950s — expect to plant slightly less corn acreage: Illinois' acres are down 5 percent to 12.2 million; Minnesota fell 3 percent to 9 million acres; and Nebraska corn acres are down 1 percent at 9.9 million acres.
The report said farmers plan to plant 77.1 million acres in soybeans, a small decline from 2012's 77.2 million acres but still the fourth highest on record.
Compared with last year, planted soybean acreage intentions are down across all of the Great Plains, with the exception of North Dakota, as drought conditions have persisted. However, increases in planted area across most of the eastern Corn Belt and parts of the Southeast nearly balance out the plains' declines.
If the estimates come to fruition, the planted soybean areas in New York, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania will be the largest on record.
Iowa soybean acres are expected to rise 1 percent to 9.4 million acres, while Illinois is up 4 percent to 9.4 million. Nebraska is expected to see soybeans acres fall about 6 percent to 4.7 million.
Some analysts had anticipated increased planting in both corn and soybeans partly because farmers dedicated fewer acres to the conservation reserve program last year, leaving 2.6 million more acres available for planting.
Darrel Good, an agriculture economics professor at the University of Illinois, said with plenty of land available for planting, the weather now becomes a focal point.
"The attention will focus very quickly on planting weather and thoughts of yield prospects," he said. "The question is what kind of summer we're going to have."
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