Although corn prices are increasing ever so slightly, ag economists forecast that the U.S. corn acreage is likely to decrease again in 2018. With Congress passing the supplemental disaster bill that restores cotton’s eligibility for Title I ARC/PLC programs from the Farm Bill, coupled with the improvement in cotton prices, the decrease in corn and increase in cotton seems all the more likely.
As a recap, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, corn and grain production in 2017 was estimated at 14.6 billion bushels, down 4 percent from the 2016 estimate. The average yield in the United States was estimated at a record high 176.6 bushels per acre, 2.0 bushels above the 2016 average yield of 174.6 bushels per acre. Area harvested for grain was estimated at 82.7 million acres, down 5 percent from the 2016 estimate.
Globally, grain production for 2017/18 is projected lower by 2.3 million tons to 1,321.9 million. Decreased production estimates, particularly in key areas such as Argentina where persistent heat and dryness have reduced yield prospects, but greater consumption worldwide are positive signs for now.
As I look at the possible competition for acreage in the Southeast and Mid-South, and in light of the possible stabilization of cotton policy, I can’t help but think of an old stool. It doesn’t matter how many legs your stool has, when one is missing, the stool doesn’t work and sit as well as it should. When you have planting options among corn, cotton, soybeans, peanuts and possibly other crops, and all are basically the same or similar, at least you can continue crop rotations within your farm, which is a foundational practice and improves the entire farming system.