Soybean planting expected down 1%, but still third largest on record.

With commodity prices significantly higher than last spring, U.S. farmers plan to plant 3.99 million (4.5%) more corn acres, 3.89 million (8.2%) more wheat acres, and 1.59 million (15%) more cotton acres than last year.

The figures come from the Prospective Plantings report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Farmers reported intentions of planting 323.8 million acres across the 21 major crops surveyed for this report, a 2.2% increase from 2010, but still 1.21 million acres below the 2008 total.

“Despite increased plantings for most major field crops, the March 1 Grain Stocks report indicates continued strong demand and usage for these commodities. This suggests the current tight supply situation will continue into 2011 and 2012,” said USDA Chief Economist, Joseph Glauber.

The USDA’s estimate for 2011 is for 92.2 million acres to be planted in field corn.  Assuming a 91.7% harvest rate and the USDA’s projected yield of 162 bushels per acre, farmers will grow 13.7 billion bushels on 84.5 million harvested acres.

“Even after a difficult growing season last year, farmers produced the third largest crop and it initially shows they will produce another record crop this year,” National Corn Growers Association President Bart Schott said.

The largest increase in corn-planted acreage in 2011 is expected in South Dakota where growers intend to plant an additional 850,000 acres compared to last year, when wet field conditions during planting prevented many from getting all of their intended acreage seeded.

Iowa and North Dakota acreage is expected to increase 500,000 and 450,000 acres respectively. The largest decrease in planted acreage is expected in Texas, down 150,000 acres due to an increase in cotton acreage.

The 2011 wheat-planted area is estimated at 58.0 million acres. Of this, 41.2 million acres is winter wheat planted area, 10% above last year and up 1% from the previous estimate.

Cotton acreage increases are expected in every state, for a total of 12.6 million acres, 15 percent above last year. The largest increase, at 548,000 acres, is expected in Texas.

Soybean acreage planting is expected to be 76.6 million acres, down 1% from last year, but still the third largest on record. Compared with last year’s record planting intentions, declines of 100,000 acres or more are expected in Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska and Ohio.

If realized, the planted area in New York and North Dakota will be the largest on record at 1.5 million and 4.35 acres respectively.

NASS surveyed approximately 85,000 farm operators across the U.S. from Feb. 26 to March 17, 2011. NASS will publish data on actual planted area on June 30.