U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 14.6 million acres in 2006, up 3 percent from last year's 14.2 million acres, according to USDA's March Prospective Plantings report. Plantings include 14.3 million acres of upland, up 3 percent.

Growers intend to increase acreage in all cotton-producing states except Alabama and South Carolina, where expected acreage is down slightly from 2005. American-Pima cotton growers intend to increase their plantings 24 percent from 2005, to a record high 334,000 acres. California producers expect to plant 290,000 acres, up 26 percent from last year.

Soybean producers intend to plant 76.9 million acres in 2006, up 7 percent from last year. If realized, this will be the largest planted area on record. Acreage increases are expected in all growing areas, except in the central and southern Atlantic Coast states and the southern Great Plains. The largest acreage increase is in North Dakota, where record high soybean yields last year and high input costs have some farmers shifting acreage from other crops to soybeans. Large increases in soybean acreage are also expected across the Corn Belt, including 600,000 more acres in Illinois and 500,000 more acres in Indiana.

Corn growers intend to plant 78 million acres of corn in 2006, down 5 percent from 2005 and 4 percent below 2004. If realized, this will be the lowest corn acreage since 2001 when 75.7 million acres were planted. Expected acreage is down from last year in most states as producers intend to switch to other less input intensive crops due to high fertilizer and fuel costs. Dry conditions also contributed to lower corn planting intentions in the southern Great Plains.

All wheat planted area is expected to total 57.1 million acres, down slightly from 2005. If realized, this will be the lowest wheat acreage since 1972. Winter wheat planted area for the 2006 crop is 41.4 million acres, up 2 percent from last year. Of the total, about 29.8 million acres are hard red winter, 7.42 million acres are soft red winter, and 4.22 million acres are white winter.

USDA also projected 2006 rice plantings at 2.972 million acres, a 12 percent decline from last year's 3.38 million acres. Acreage declined in all states except California.