The press has focused on the slow pace of the 2019 U.S. corn planting season. While the same thing can be said for soybeans, there is less reason for concern when it comes to the later-planted crop. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that just 19 percent of the intended 2019 U.S. soybean crop had been seeded as of mid-May versus 53 percent planted at the same time last year and the previous five-year average pace of 47 percent. The following chart shows interpolated history that normalizes history relative to the current year and shows that, on average, U.S. farmers have seeded 90 percent of their intended soybean acres by mid-June.
The benefit for soybeans is that improved plant genetics have developed shorter growing varieties that enable the plants to reach key milestones before summer heat and dryness can harm key phases of plant development. This feature is just one reason why many farmers to first focus their attention on seeding corn before turning their attention to soybeans. A side effect of this is that it enables farmers who have missed their corn planting deadlines to switch acres over to soybeans when rotations allow it.
In the U.S., a farmer begins to reduce coverage for their crop under insurance if plantings are not completed by a predetermined date. For example, a farmer in central Illinois must plant their corn crop before June 5 in order to cover 85 percent of their projected revenue using Revenue Protection (RP) insurance. If a farmer is unable to plant by the 5th, then coverage is lowered by 1 percent per day, or the farmer can choose to swap coverage over to soybeans where the last planting date to receive 100% percent coverage is June 20. Dates vary by state and often regionally based on latitude, but generally move later the further north into the Corn Belt and northern Plains.
In USDA’s March Prospective Plantings report, U.S. farmers indicated that they intended to plant 92.8 million acres of corn and 84.6 million acres of soybeans. The slow pace of this year’s seeding campaign suggests that corn number will eventually go down, and, conversely, U.S. soybean plantings will increase. The extent of this switching is greatly reliant on future weather conditions into early June which, for now, suggest further delays for many U.S. farmers in the Corn Belt and would likely result in U.S. soybean plantings exceeding the 84.6 million acres expected by USDA as of late March.