Acreage intention surveys for 2021 are currently ongoing, with the Prospective Plantings report due March 31. At this point, since I get this question daily this time of year, I’ll share my thoughts on where it looks like we might be headed based on what we know, and don’t know, right now.
Figure 1 shows the harvested rice acreage for Arkansas from 2000-2020. As has been the trend for some time, 2021 as an odd numbered year will see a decrease in rice acres. The record rice prevented planting in 2019 was followed by the second most prevented planting in 2020, even though we saw a 25% increase in acres.
Just how high could we have gone in 2020 if weather permitted an early spring planting window?
Certainly, soybean and corn prices have moved those commodities way up into the conversation in terms of competing with rice on the net return side of things. Table 1 provides a generalized outlook for several commodities based on approximate fall cash prices.
Break-even yields are shown at 75% crop share at listed prices and costs. A lot depends on actual costs for your given operation, but it presents an interesting picture for the yields needed to achieve success (profit) in 2021.
It’s realistic to point toward at least a 10% reduction in acreage for 2021, which would put us around 1.3 million acres. The complications of how much further it may fall, or not, center around continued price support for competing commodities and what happens with ground that was forced to take prevented planting for two years.
It’s entirely possible that we see a reduction in acres back to near 1.1 million acres as we did in 2013, 2017, and 2019. However, a favorable April planting window would likely ensure that we exceed those levels. Add in an opportunity to plant ground that has been laid out for multiple years, and somewhere between 1.1 and 1.3 million acres seems our most likely acreage window, as of right now.