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Tariffs could change U.S. crop rotations

Tariffs could change U.S. crop rotations

Some growers take a wait-and-see approach

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

U.S. soybean producers are being cautious and not making the switch in crop plans despite ongoing trade issues with China.

The soybean market is still caught in a months-long trade war between China and the U.S. About 7.4 million bushels of American soybeans headed for China during the first seven weeks of the 2018-19 marketing year, the Federal Grain Inspection Service says.

Last year at this time, the U.S. shipped about 239 million bushels of soybeans. The year-over-year difference represents a 97 percent decrease in soybean exports.

Despite the uncertainty of trade with their largest customer, some U.S. soybean producers aren’t ready to change crop rotations just yet.

Jay Ferguson, who produces about 3,000 acres of soybeans in Yale, Mi., plans to wait as long as he can before reducing his soybean acreage.

“I just read something the other day about China maybe buying beans,” he told Farms.com. “I think I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach and get all of the information I can before planting season.”

Other producers have, however, discussed the possibility of switching soybean acres to corn.

But that decision would include several factors, said Marc Reiner, a farmer from Trip, S.D.

“If we were going to switch our rotation it would probably have more to do with what we think ending stocks are going to be for beans,” he told Farms.com. “We’d have to make a decision like that by the end of this year. It would be a combination of purchasing seed and also where we can get some fertilizer to try and control corn inputs.”

Like Reiner, Nathan Dorn, a producer from Adams, Neb., has considered switching some of his soybean acres to corn.

He farms on 3,400 acres and currently splits the operation evenly between corn and soybeans, so any changes would require careful planning, he said.

“If we switch too many acres it could mess up our rotation, but it’s definitely something we’ve talked about,” he told Farms.com. “At this point, we just don’t feel there’s enough reason to justify that kind of decision.”

Dorn feeds some of his crops to his cattle, which adds another element to consider.

“If we were to change, we’d have to make sure we don’t run into a situation where we wouldn’t have enough feed for the cattle in the case of a drought,” for example, he said.

Dorn’s fertilizer program means he will wait until early March before deciding how to split his acres.

“We like to put anhydrous down,” he said. “We’d have to do a spring application for those acres going from soybeans to corn. We’d have to make that kind of decision by about March 1.”

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