Co-authored by Janice Person and Nick Weber

Cotton emerging from the soil

The unofficial start of planting season got under way today, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2010 Prospective Plantings report. It’s an annual report that the agency issues each March 31 as its best estimates on what farmers may plant for corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and many other crops.

The quick highlights:

  • A record 78.1 million acres of soybeans
  • 88.8 million acres of corn (second-highest on record)
  • 53.8 million acres of wheat (lowest since 1970)
  • 10.5 million acres of cotton (15 percent higher than 2009)

According to Kansas farmer Darin Grimm, the Plantings report is one of the couple big reports that he follows.

“I pay a fair amount of attention,” said Grimm. “It moves the market. We look to see what affect it will have on prices, so we pay a fair amount of attention. In this case, the numbers are about as expected.”

Illinois farmer Doug Martin said the report gets the year going for farmers.

“I have always had my doubts about the USDA reports because I have always wondered about their accuracy,” he said. “However, it does set a benchmark for the year. I was able to attend the March report a few years ago in (Washington) D.C., and I think that they do their best to get an accurate number.”

The report isn’t swaying Grimm and Martin to change acreage intentions, as they expect their corn and soybean acreage mix to remain the same. The past couple days’ weather has kicked things into high gear on the Grimm farm. After a wet fall and snowy winter, the 70-degree days are just what the Midwest and South needed. Grimm said fall fieldwork has been pushed back to this spring.

“In my area, typically, we will have all our anhydrous (fertilizer) on corn acres in the fall and also do fall herbicide spraying,” he said. “Once we have those operations done, we’re committed to planting corn on those acres.”

That means the Kansas farmers could switch some acres to soybeans, which is why the report is an estimate.

“Right now, there’s a fair amount of nitrogen that needs to go on corn acres, which is unusual for us. It was so wet all fall and winter that we simply didn’t get it down. So if it stays wet, those acres can go to beans more easily.”

Down south, planting is underway from South Texas to South Carolina.  Texas was singled out as the state with the greatest move to cotton, accounting for an extra 600,000 acres of the 10.5 million forecast for 2010. The increase in cotton acres was something farmers have been discussing and optimistic about for months, according to Barry Evans who farms in Kress, Texas on the High Plains.

“Here north of Lubbock we’re cotton & grain so we can move easily how much we plant of cotton, corn and sorghum. I’ll be planting more cotton and expect that as you move north toward Amarillo there will be a greater movement into cotton,” Evans said. The winter provided good moisture on the High Plains and good weather now has lots of people doing field work. He adds that he looks forward to seeing more producers next week at the Plains Cotton Growers annual meeting.

In South Carolina, Thad Wimberly has been busy planting corn in a strip tillage system.  Early spring rains have delayed him a bit but this week has been productive.  “As far as out look we will take 200 acres out of corn and put in more cotton.”

This increase in cotton acres is something most states expect this spring according to the USDA, estimating that only Kansas, Louisiana and Arkansas will see drops.

There’s one common theme among all farmers on March 31 though: excitement for planting.

“We are really excited,” Martin said. “After the last two wet springs. we would like to ‘enjoy’ this planting season. Although with all of last fall’s work still left to do, it will probably be chaotic, unless it quits raining until the middle of May. We are hoping to get some field work started by the weekend, and if we miss Saturday’s rain we will be ready to go full steam ahead.”

“It’s always exciting,” Grimm said. “It’s easy to be optimistic in the spring.”

Seven hundred people are expected at today’s joint USDA/DOJ workshop on “Issues of Concern to Farmers,” in Ankeny, Iowa. Event organizers are answering questions and completing last-minute preparations. There is a lot of anticipation and wonder over what today will look like.

I landed yesterday in a still wintry Des Moines and will be one of the hundreds in the audience. I will be tweeting live coverage of the panels via my Twitter account @mica_MON using the hashtag #agworkshop. You can also get twitter coverage via our corporate account @MonsantoCo.

The law bloggers at Truth on the Market have announced they will be live blogging the event.

You can find an agenda for the workshop here.

For more information on the USDA/DOJ workshop visit the USDA/DOJ workshop portion of the Monsanto.com website.

For a complete look at competition in the seed industry, please visit www.choiceinag.com or click on “A Look at the Seed Industry” from the homepage of Monsanto.com.

Cotton farmers in Africa inspect their crop. In Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, biotech cotton increased from 8,500 hectares to 115,000 hectares.

This week’s ISAAA report is at first glance, not surprising: yes, the “how much?” question is always the lead, and as in other years, the report says more and more farmers around the world are planting biotech crops.*
But more interesting to me, are the answers to the “where?” and “what?” questions. As in, where are farmers planting biotech crops and what are they planting? Reviewing the list, I see countries that I haven’t seen before as well as new products that I haven’t heard of (blue roses anyone?). Here’s some tidbits that caught my eye. Also, I should note that Monsanto is a sponsor of ISAAA. Read the rest of this entry »

Monsanto News Lowdown

January 20, 2010

There is a lot of news at Monsanto this week. Here is a quick read of everything that is going on.

  • Corn Farmers Saved $50M in Insurance Premiums by Planting Biotech
  • And on it goes…Monsanto vs. DuPont
  • Roundup Ready® Alfalfa Goes to the Supreme Court
  • Calling All Rice and Wheat Breeders Read the rest of this entry »

By Dan Goldstein (aka Dr. Dan)

Recently, a paper was released claiming three Monsanto corn varieties cause organ damage in mammals. This simply isn’t true.

In the current paper (de Vendomois et al., 2009) as with the prior publication (Seralini et al, 2007), Seralini and his colleagues use non-traditional statistical methods to reassess toxicology data from studies conducted with MON 863, MON 810 and NK603 corn varieties, and reach unsubstantiated conclusions.

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Corn being harvested during the 2009 season.

Big notes of “Thanks” and “Congrats” are in order for U.S. farmers.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its “Crop Production 2009 Summary.” This report highlights the USDA’s best estimates of what farmers produced during the 2009 crop year across several crops, including Monsanto’s core crops of corn, soybeans and cotton. I’ve pulled out the top 10 production states by crop and highlighted their crop stats below.

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It’s hard to explain the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.  I know because I’ve tried for years.  And the recent post to the company blog provided some insight on my personal connection to the event for almost 20 years! But I’ve gotten a few questions sent to me through email, tweets and Facebook posts so I want to take a few minutes on this wireless-free flight (yes, that bummed me out) and capture a few things while I’m high above what could be New Mexico, on my way to American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting.

What makes Beltwide different from the other trade shows?  Well, while that’s the question I usually get, I point out the name doesn’t include “tradeshow”!  There is a trade show, but wow, there’s much more!  Let’s start with the deconstruction of the name:

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