Most U.S. producers say that Asian soybean rust wasn't even a factor in their planting decisions this year. However, of the 11 percent of U.S. producers who did consider Asian rust a factor, almost half said they intend to decrease acres because of the disease. Hence, a little over 5 percent of U.S. soybean producers intend to decrease acres due to rust.

In the Mid-South, 19 percent of soybean producers said that rust was a factor in their planting decision. Of these producers, 63 percent said they will reduce their soybean acres this year because of it.

In the Southeast, 29 percent of soybean producers said that rust was a factor in their planting decisions. As in the Mid-South, 63 percent said they intend to decrease acreage because of it.

Essentially, this means 12 percent of Mid-South soybean farmers surveyed and 18 percent of Southeast soybean farmers surveyed intend to decrease acres due to rust.

In the Corn Belt, 10 percent of soybean farmers considered rust as a factor in their planting decisions. Of these producers, 47 percent intend to decrease acres, indicating that less than 5 percent of all surveyed intend to decrease acres due to rust.

A few producers who said that rust was a factor in their planting decisions said they will increase acres due to rust, perhaps hedging their bets on a combination of higher soybean prices or the expectation of minimal impact of the disease on their farms or in their regions. These producers were mostly concentrated in the Northeast, Great Lakes states and Northern Plains.

The survey did not provide a state-by-state breakdown of how rust affected the planting decisions of soybean farmers.

Much of the decline in Mid-South acreage is in Louisiana, where growers are planning to decrease soybean acres by 23 percent, or around 350,000 acres. While some of this decline is ostensibly due to concerns over rust, another reason could be the lack of an early harvest premium this year. Last year an early harvest premium resulted in a spike of soybean acres in the Mid-South, especially Louisiana.

Nationally, soybean producers intend to plant 73.9 million acres in 2005, according to USDA. That's 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.

Questions on Asian rust were included in USDA's annual survey for its March 31 Prospective Plantings report. USDA conducted the survey because of heightened speculation of how growers would react to the fast-spreading, yield-robbing disease.

USDA also questioned farmers in soybean producing states about their awareness of the disease. Of those intending to plant soybeans this year, 89 percent had seen, read, or heard at least some information about Asian soybean rust.

In Illinois, 98 percent of soybean farmers have read or heard information about rust, the highest in the United States. In the Mid-South, awareness ranged from 85 percent for Tennessee to 91 percent for Louisiana. Only 65 percent of soybean producers in Kentucky had read or heard about soybean rust, the lowest in the United States.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com