U.S. farmers are expected to plant a record amount of acres this year to take advantage of high agricultural prices after years of tough market conditions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that farmers will plant 182 million acres of corn and soybeans in 2021. That is an all-time high and up roughly eight million acres from last year—driven by a jump in soybean acreage, which is expected to rise nearly seven million acres from last year.
“If realized, this would approach the highest planted soybean area figure on record,” said Mac Marshall, vice president of market intelligence for the United Soybean Board. That record dates back to 2017, when farmers planted 90.2 million acres of soybeans, according to USDA data.
Behind the increase lies a sharp rise in soybean prices over the past eight months—69% since June 1, with the most-active contract on the Chicago Board of Trade trading at $14.26 per bushel on Wednesday, the highest level since July 2014.
Prices have been lifted by surging demand for U.S. soybeans in China, where the country continues to rebuild a hog herd that was decimated by African swine fever in 2019. As of last week, Chinese buyers had purchased 35.9 million tons of U.S. soybeans since the start of September—up nearly 24 million tons from the same period a year earlier.