U.S. farmers intend to plant fewer acres of soybeans this year, while allocating more acres to cotton, corn and rice, according to USDA’s March 31 Prospective Plantings report.

The report, which is based on grower surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March, indicates cotton plantings for 2005 of 13.8 million acres, 1 percent above last year.

Upland cotton acreage is expected to total 13.5 million acres, also up 1 percent. Producers in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, and Texas intend to decrease acreage from last year. Growers in all other cotton-producing states intend to increase planted acreage.

American-Pima cotton growers intend to increase their plantings 10 percent from 2004, to 275,000 acres. The increase is primarily in California, where producers intend planting 25,000 more Pima acres than last year.

Mid-South cotton producers intend to plant 3.83 million acres, up 12 percent from 2004. Farmers in Louisiana and Mississippi expect to increase plantings by 120,000 acres and 140,000 acres, respectively, over last year.

If planting estimates hold true, Mississippi will regain its spot as the second largest cotton-producing state with 1.25 million acres, behind Texas, at 5.7 million acres. Georgia, in second place last year, is expected to plant 1.2 million acres in 2005.

Producers in Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas intend to plant 6.08 million acres of cotton, a 2 percent decrease from last year. Planting intentions in Texas are 150,000 acres below 2004. In the Southeast, farmers expect to plant 2.92 million acres, 1 percent below 2004.

Upland planted acreage in Arizona and California is estimated at 710,000 acres, 11 percent below last year. California producers intend to plant 480,000 acres, 14 percent less than 2004.

A large portion of the increase in Louisiana cotton acres will come from an expected 350,000-acre decrease in soybean plantings. This is due in part to the threat of Asian soybean rust. In addition, a premium for early delivery of soybeans is not available this year. Last year an early harvest premium resulted in a spike of soybean acres in the Mid-South.

Nationally, soybean producers intend to plant 73.9 million acres in 2005, down 2 percent from last year’s record-high acreage. Of the 31 soybean producing states, growers in 16 states intend to plant fewer acres this year, while producers in 11 states intend to plant more acres than in 2004.

The largest acreage declines are in the Dakotas. Mid-South acres are expected to decline by about 500,000 acres.

Rice area for 2005 is estimated at 3.36 million acres, up less than 1 percent from 2004 and up 11 percent from 2003. All Mid-South states are expected to increase rice acres in 2005, while Texas and California plantings are expected to decline.

Long grain intended acreage, representing 80 percent of the total, is up 4 percent from last year. Medium grain intended acreage is down 11 percent from 2004. Area intended for short grain varieties declined 8 percent from 2004.

Corn planted area for all purposes is estimated at 81.4 million acres, up 1 percent from 2004 and 4 percent above 2003. If realized, this would be largest corn acreage since 1985. Expected acreage is up from last year throughout much of the Corn Belt and southern Great Plains. However, growers in most Delta states, the Southeast and northern Great Plains intend to decrease their corn acreage as producers are switching to more profitable crops due to low corn prices and high fuel and fertilizer costs.

All wheat planted area is expected to total 58.6 million acres in 2005, down 2 percent from 2004. If realized, this would be the lowest planted acreage since 1972. Winter wheat planted area for the 2005 crop is 41.6 million acres, down 4 percent from 2004.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com