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Corn prices plummet as USDA shows far more acres planted than predicted

By
Jessie Higgins
A corn field in Indiana remains unplanted in mid-June because abnormally intense rain has kept the field too wet for farmers to drive their tractors on. Photo by Jessie Higgins/UPI
A corn field in Indiana remains unplanted in mid-June because abnormally intense rain has kept the field too wet for farmers to drive their tractors on. Photo by Jessie Higgins/UPI

EVANSVILLE, Ind., June 28 (UPI) -- Corn prices plummeted Friday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released data on the number of acres planted, showing numbers that were far higher than previous predictions. However, the USDA has warned that that numbers may not be accurate.

This survey was gathered in early June, during a time when millions of acres of corn that farmers intended to plant remained unplanted due to excessive rainfall.

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"At the time of this survey, the number of acres farmers intended to plant, but had not planted, was 15.5 million acres," said Scott Irwin, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois. "That's 15.5 million acres that the USDA reported as planted that we have no idea what happened to in this survey."

The USDA report shows farmers have planted 91.7 million acres. But industry groups estimate the planted acreage is around 86.7 million acres, according to Successful Farming.

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"The numbers we're seeing in the report for Illinois don't feel right to us based on what we're seeing in the Illinois countryside," said Tricia Braid, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

Regardless, hours after the report was published, corn prices dropping more than 20 cents a bushel, according to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. A majority of that corn is processed into animal feed, ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and other food ingredients.

"It's pretty amazing the way they've bottomed out," said Al Kluis, the managing director of Kluis Commodity Advisors in Wayzata, Minn.

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Before the report, corn prices were climbing. By mid-June, they had reached their highest in more than five years.

"We had a huge rally from low to high," Kluis said. "Now, this report is bombing the market back low."

It is likely those prices will climb again once the market gets a clearer picture of how many acres were truly planted, Kluis added.

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The USDA plans to conduct a second planted acreage survey in July. If the results of that survey differ substantially from the June report, the agency will update the report in mid-August.

Soybean acres were also featured in the June report, though those numbers are even more uncertain, as more than 40 percent of the intended soybean acres were unplanted at the time of the survey, Irwin said.

The report showed that the number of planted soybean acres have dropped 10 percent from last year, with 80 million acres planted, compared with the 89 million planted in 2018.

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