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US Farmers Switching from Corn to Soybeans; High Cost of Fuel Major Factor

Corn and soybean plantings.

The rising costs of fuel and fertilizer are leading US farmers to switch from corn to less input-intensive crops such as soybeans in 2006, according to the Prospective Plantings report recently released by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Dry conditions also contributed to lower corn planting intentions in the southern Great Plains.

Farmers plan to plant 78 million acres of corn in 2006, down 5% from 2005. They intend to plant a record-high 76.9 million acres of soybeans, up 7%.

Expected corn acreage is down in most states, the NASS report shows. Illinois expects the largest decline with 700,000 fewer acres, a 6% drop from last year’s record level. The only states showing increases from last year are North Dakota, Arizona and Utah, while Minnesota remains unchanged from a year ago.

For soybeans, NASS reports expected acreage increases in all growing areas except the Atlantic Coast and in the southern Great Plains. The largest increase is in North Dakota, with a 41% jump to a record-high 4.15 million acres. Significant growth in soybean acreage is also expected across the Corn Belt, including Illinois, with a 6% increase to 10.1 million acres, and Indiana, with a 9% jump to 5.9 million acres.

The Prospective Plantings report provides the first official estimates of US farmers’ planting intentions for 2006. NASS’ acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March among a sample of more than 87,000 farm operators across the United States.

Corn prices rose while soybean prices declined following the report’s release on 31 March 2006.




Mmmmmm, tofu.


This is good news for biodiesel. Despite soybeans' low oil yield per acre, the energy return is far better than corn ethanol. More soybeans also means lower prices for feedstock, making it more competetive with petrodiesel.


This may be another indicator that ethanol will never be truly economically viable as long as it is dependent upon corn. All that fertilizer requires lots and lots of nitrogen which is heavily dependent upon fossil fuel inputs. Interesting that corn production is decreasing despite all the subsidies.


corn ethanol won't be. It's an intermediate step. Cellulosic methods seem to be the only means to produce large quantities of ethanol in a sustainable way.


I've become a proponent of butanol instead of ethanol. But the technology to make it economically is extremely new, within the last five years. Butanol is almost as energy dense as gasoline, can be shipped through piplines, has a favorable vapor pressure. Most importantly, engines can run it without modification.

Again, tough, the process ( ) isn't even in the infancy stage yet. It's still gestating.

Mike GR

"Mmmmmm, tofu."

I second that :)

Mark A

What I found interesting was a current Popular Mechanics article on ethanol production, and its viability. The article states that for ethanol to totally replace petroleum usage, that 71% of the current US farmland would need to be planted in corn. What happens when a flood or drought hits?? That leaves 29% for biodiesel and FOOD!!! Obviously, farmers have a choice in which crops they grow, to try to be profitable. Some major politicians are touting ethanol, and biodiesel, as our next energy choices, but need to keep in mind the open farm markets, and the inherent volitility of farming as a whole, before mandating policies.

allen zheng

What happened to making corn oil and ethanol?
Another thing is the cane ethanol from brasil (and possibly from any efficient mass sugar producer) as well as palm biodiesel from southeast asia.

allen zheng

What happened to making corn oil and ethanol?
Another thing is the cane ethanol from brasil (and possibly from any efficient mass sugar producer) as well as palm biodiesel from southeast asia.


I'm sure Monsanto is rubbing their hands at the thought of planting some of their GMO roundup ready soy on the newly planted fields so they can sue the crap out of the independent farmers for unauthorized use of their patented plant, then forcing them to use the patented product (and pay licence fees) or not grow anything that Monsanto also has a patented version of.

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