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Farmers Dial Back Crop Plantings as COVID Uncertainty Rocks Markets-USDA

By Mark Weinraub
 
U.S. farmers planted nearly 5 million fewer acres of corn this spring than estimated by the U.S. government in March, the biggest cut in 37 years, as the coronavirus pandemic roils demand for the crop.The drop in corn seedings, as well as an 11.1% cut in cotton plantings, accounted for the bulk of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s 7.2 million-acre reduction to its estimate of the amount of major crops seeded this spring.
 
Soybean plantings fell below market expectations, with export demand in focus due to uncertainty about purchases from China arising from trade tensions.
 
Both corn  and soybean  futures soared to multi-month highs after the closely watched report was released.
 
“We were planting into peak fear,” said Ted Seifried, chief ag market strategist of the Zaner Group. “There was poor pricing, poor outlook in the market … some guys not able to get into the fields – and we were in the middle of the pandemic.”
 
The USDA pegged corn plantings at 92.006 million acres, down from its March outlook for 96.990 million. Analysts had been expecting the report to show corn acres at 95.207 million, according to the average of estimates given in a Reuters poll.
 
Demand for corn-based ethanol fuel dropped sharply during the spring as drivers stayed at home during lockdowns, making corn less appealing to farmers.
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