U.S. Corn Acres: One-Third Still Unplanted – DTN

Young corn rows. ©Debra L Ferguson

Pat Swanson has already started filling in the paperwork on prevented planting for her family’s farm and for several of her customers.

“We have some fields under water, and the dam upstream increased its outflow by 67% last Friday. For some fields, we have no choice,” the Ottumwa, Iowa, crop insurance agent said.

Swanson, like many across the Corn Belt, is facing the tough decision that comes with saturated fields. As of this weekend, one-third of the nation’s corn acres are still unplanted. Yet it’s not so late into June that farmers are giving up hope on planting corn even though the “final planting date” for crop insurance has passed.

Corn and soybean producers have several options still available.

PLANT CORN

If your ground dries up enough, you could still plant corn with reduced crop insurance coverage until the end of the late-planting period, despite agronomic issues like reduced yield and soil compaction.

The late-planting period varies by state and by county in some states. In Iowa, that’s June 1-25, in Ohio June 6-30, in Nebraska May 26-June 14. Check with your crop insurance agent or go to https://prodwebnlb.rma.usda.gov/….

Under this option, you lose 1% of your crop insurance coverage each day, and your final yield becomes a part of your actual production history (APH), which could lower your revenue guarantee in future years. But on the plus side, corn prices are climbing.

The most important thing to do this spring is keep good planting records.

“That’s the main thing we learned in 2013 when we had unplanted crop acres,” said Steve Johnson, Iowa State Extension farm management specialist in central Iowa.

You’re dealing with two government entities: USDA’s Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency. They have different deadlines, different forms to file and the rules are very specific about dates, acres, crops and historic yields.

TAKE PREVENTED PLANTING ON CORN

If you are considering this, Johnson said you should call your crop insurance agent immediately. The deadline to record your corn prevented planting acres to FSA is 15 calendar days after the final planting date. In Iowa, that’s June 15.

“One thing we learned from 2013 was farmers found out later they were not eligible for prevent plant payment on some acres,” Johnson said.

You cannot take prevented planting on more acres in your crop insurance unit than acres of corn planted in the past four years. For example, you generally have a 50/50 crop rotation on 100 acres, but one year in the past four years, you planted 52 acres of corn. Even if you were planning to plant all 100 acres to corn this year, you’re only eligible for prevented planting on 52 acres.

Farmers with enterprise units have an easier time qualifying their acres for prevented planting. It’s called the 20/20 rule: the prevented planting acres must total 20% of the unit or 20 acres, whichever is less. Farmers with optional units must have at least the lesser of 20 acres or 20% of corn acres in that section for those acres to qualify.

This minimum is important for farmers planting around wet spots to be sure they have the minimum acres prevented from planting.

Another advantage to taking prevented planting is your APH yield history won’t be dinged for the lack of a corn yield reported on that ground.

Prevented planting on corn will pay more than prevented soybean planting, so most farmers will try to get as much of their unplanted acres designated to corn as possible.

For example, if your corn APH yield is 180 bushels per acre and you took 80% coverage in crop insurance, using the spring corn guaranteed price of $4.00 per bushel multiplied by the 55% prevented planting payment rate for corn, you would receive $317 per acre.

For soybeans, if you have a 55 bpa APH yield at 80% coverage and a guaranteed price of $9.54 per bushel, then multiply it by the 60% prevented planting payment rate for soybeans, you would receive $252 per acre.

PLANT SOYBEANS

“At some point, probably the middle of next week, producers will need to decide ‘I’m done planting corn,'” said University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey. “Then they’ll need to plant soybeans on their intended soybean acres.”

For your soybean acres to qualify for full crop insurance coverage, you have until June 10 in the northern and Western Corn Belt; June 15 in Iowa, Michigan, southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northern Kansas; and June 20 in Indiana, Ohio, southern Illinois and central Kansas.

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“The economics right now point to maximizing your PP corn acres and then the remaining unplanted acres as PP soybeans,” Schnitkey said.

Every operation — and actually every field — could have a different revenue scenario. University of Illinois’ FarmDoc decision tool (https://farmdoc.illinois.edu/…) and Iowa State’s Ag Decision Maker model (https://www.extension.iastate.edu/…) can help you work through some scenarios.

TAKE PREVENTED PLANTING ON SOYBEANS

The deadline for reporting your prevented planting soybean acres to FSA is 15 calendar days after the final planting date.

“Another lesson learned in 2013 is do not miss a reporting deadline,” ISU’s Johnson advised. “You get busy in the field; it’s easy to miss. But if you miss it, you don’t get paid.”

To calculate your PP soybean payment, multiply your APH yield times your original percent crop insurance coverage times the spring price of $9.54 times 60% for prevented planting.

COVER CROP CAUTION

Johnson said farmers can use leftover corn and soybean seed as a cover crop, but that caused a lot of issues in 2013.

“It was a mess because the crop adjusters confused it with a planted crop, not a cover crop,” he said. “That is why it is so important to work with your crop insurance agent and adjuster now and communicate completely.”

You can use treated soybean seeds, which can’t be returned to the dealer, as a cover crop on corn prevented planting ground, but not on land that’s been designated as soybean prevented planting.

“You’ve got to be super careful and communicate with your crop insurance agent and adjuster so they are not counted as a planted soybean crop and reduce your benefits,” Johnson said.

You also cannot graze or hay prevented planting cover crops until Nov. 1.

“Farmers may find this August the perfect time to lay down tile on their prevent plant acres,” said Johnson. “I’d schedule my tiler now before his August gets too full.”

Elizabeth Williams can be reached at elizabeth.williams@dtn.com


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