WASHINGTON—U.S. farmers planted more soybean acres than corn for the first time in 35 years even as domestic soy supplies reached the biggest on record for early June, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday.
Growers hoped for better profits for the oilseed, which costs less to plant than corn, but a brewing trade war with China has driven prices sharply lower since the planting season ended.
USDA said in its acreage report that farmers planted 89.557 million acres of soybeans and 89.128 million acres of corn. That compares to soybean acreage of 90.142 million and corn acreage of 90.167 million in 2017.
Analysts had pegged soybean acreage at 89.691 million and corn acreage at 88.562 million, based on the average of estimates given in a Reuters poll.
Corn and soybean futures rallied to session highs after the report was released but quickly pared gains.
“You have to ask yourself – with corn being down 47 cents for the month, and beans down $1.50 – do the bears want to push those prices even further down on this news?” said Matt Connelly, grain and energy analyst with Hightower Report. “I don’t think so.”
Corn and soy acreage both rose from the USDA’s planting intentions report, issued at the end of March. Corn acreage came in 1.102 million higher than the March forecast, its biggest positive change between the two reports since 2012.
On the stocks front, domestic soybean supplies stood at 1.222 billion bushels as of June 1, topping the record of 1.092 billion set in 2007.
Soybean usage was the highest ever for the quarter at 888 million bushels, but stocks remained high due to last year’s bumper harvest.
The USDA’s quarterly stocks report also showed the domestic corn stockpile at 5.306 billion bushels, the largest June figure since 5.839 billion bushels in 1988 and the third highest ever.
Corn usage rose to a record 3.59 billion bushels during the quarter, up from 3.39 billion bushels a year ago.
Analysts had forecast corn stocks at 5.268 billion bushels and soybean stocks at 1.225 billion bushels, based on the average of estimates.
USDA also pegged total wheat acreage at 47.821 million, up from 46.012 million a year earlier. That topped analysts’ estimates which ranged from 46.575 million to 47.700 million acres.
Wheat stocks as of June 1 stood at 1.100 billion bushels, in line with estimates.
By Mark Weinraub