GRAND FORKS — Given that many North Dakota farmers’ 2019 corn harvest lasted more than six months — and a few still haven’t finished it — it’s not surprising that they significantly reduced the number of acres planted in 2020.
North Dakota corn acreage this spring is pegged at 2.4 million, 31.5% lower than the 3.5 million planted in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service acreage report released Tuesday, June 30. The report is based on surveys of farmers during the first two weeks in June.
The combination of the seemingly never-ending 2019 harvest and unfavorable planting conditions this spring likely discouraged some North Dakota farmers from planting corn this year, said Frayne Olson, NDSU Extension marketing specialist.
In March 2020, 75% of the 2019 corn in North Dakota had not been harvested. On the last day of June, a few 2019 corn fields remain too wet to combine.
Meanwhile, the cold, wet spring of 2020 resulted in delayed planting of this year’s corn crop.
Farmers didn’t again want to risk planting beyond the optimal time, and ending up with immature corn that they will have to harvest in spring 2021, Olson said
“Farmers said 'I got burned last year,'” he said.
While North Dakota planted fewer acres of corn this spring than last, Minnesota farmers planted more. Minnesota’s 2020 acreage is pegged at 8.1 million acres, up about 4% from 7.8 million in 2019, the NASS report said.
Both North Dakota’s and Minnesota’s soybean acreage rose more than 6.5% from 2019. Minnesota farmers planted 7 million acres this spring, compared with 6.85 million acres last year. In North Dakota, 2020 soybean acreage is pegged at 6 million, which is 400,000 more than last year.
Nationwide, farmers planted 92 million acres of corn. While that’s 3% or 2.1 million acres more than last year, it took the trade by surprise because, earlier this spring, U.S. farmers had indicated they would plant 97 million acres in 2020.
Though the trade had expected the acres farmers planted would be less than the 97 million estimated in the March 31 planting intentions report, they didn’t expect it would be 6 million acres less, Olson said. The March report is based on a survey of what farmers intend to seed that growing season if all goes according to plan.
“The average trade estimate was about 95.2 (million acres). The number today was 92 ... about 3 million less than we thought,” he said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the number of soybean acres U.S. farmers planted, vs. how much they had indicated this spring they would plant, also surprised the trade, Olson said.
“In March, the number we got out of that initial survey was 83.5 million acres. The average trade guess was 84.7 million acres. The number we got was 83.8 million acres,” he said.
Both corn and soybeans futures prices rose by double-digit cents per bushel after the report was released Tuesday.
Wheat prices also rose a few cents a bushel as U.S. farmers will plant the smallest crop on record.
Total wheat U.S. wheat acreage this year is estimated at 44.3 million, the lowest amount of acres planted since USDA began keeping records in 1919, the June 30 report said.
North Dakota farmers planted 6 million acres of spring wheat this year, a 10.5% decrease from last year’s 6.7 million acres, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The reduction in North Dakota’s spring wheat acreage likely is the result of wet weather, especially in the northeast part of the state, during the 2020 planting season, Olson said.
“It was wet, it was cold, things weren’t drying out,” he said.
Another reason for the reduction in North Dakota wheat acres is that a good share of cropland, especially in the east-central part of the state, likely didn’t get planted at all because of the wet conditions, said Erica Olson, North Dakota market development and research manager
“I think that is a chunk of it,” Olson said.
Minnesota farmers, meanwhile, planted 1.3 million of spring wheat acres this year, 9% less than the 1.45 million acres they planted in 2019.
Besides corn and wheat, another North Dakota crop that had a double-digit decrease in acreage this year is potatoes. Thousands of acres of potatoes, like corn, weren't harvested last fall because of wet field conditions. The fresh commodity, unlike corn, spoils if left in the field until spring.
North Dakota farmers planted 65,000 acres of potatoes in 2020, 11% less than the 73 million acres they planted in 2019. Across the Red River, Minnesota farmers planted 45,000 acres this year or about 2% less than last year, according to the NASS report.