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.”

We were pleased to participate in the March 12th workshop and provide more information about our business. It was a unique opportunity to highlight the investment that Monsanto and hundreds of other seed companies are making on behalf of U.S. farmers. With dozens of trait technologies available to farmers today and fifty new traits currently under development, it’s clear that competition within the U.S. seeds industry is growing. The fight to win the farmer’s business is intense. We remain committed to investing in new products for farmers, products that present another option on farm and offer them more value for their farm.

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.

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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Today, we posted on the Monsanto.com Web site, the official public comments we submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the upcoming workshops on competition in Agriculture. The DOJ and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are holding joint workshops on competition this year. The agencies have invited agribusiness to participate in these workshops and requested comments from the public. The comment period ran through the end of 2009.

You can access our comments here.

In addition to the public comments, a rebuttal to the American Antitrust Institute’s public paper, “Transgenic Seed Platforms: Competition Between a Rock and a Hard Place?” was also submitted on our behalf. AAI, who acknowledged receiving funding from our main competitor DuPont, released the paper in October. The rebuttal paper highlights how AAI’s paper is based on factual claims that are either demonstrably incorrect or premised upon a misreading or misinterpretation of data and the analyses of other scholars. You can access a copy of Monsanto’s response to the AAI paper here.

These pieces in addition to other materials are also available off the front page of Monsanto.com in a section called “Choice in Agriculture.”

I’ll be going through these materials over the coming weeks and highlighting different aspects of this story.

Sugarbeet farmers are anxiously following every step of the litigation surrounding the deregulation of Monsanto’s GenuityTM Roundup Ready Sugarbeets technology to determine what it means for next year’s seed purchases.

Briefly for those that haven’t been following: in January 2008, the Center for Food Safety along with Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds initiated legal action challenging the USDA’s deregulation of Roundup Ready sugarbeets. In September 2009, a judge ruled that the USDA would have to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Roundup Ready sugarbeets. The ruling focused on the process USDA used and did not question the safety or benefits of the technology. Read the sugarbeet industry’s response to the decision here.

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By Tyne Morgan

Tyne Morgan

It’s my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing colors and painting a beautiful picture on my frequent drives across Missouri. I love to see houses all dolled up with pumpkins, mums and gourds.  My personal fall favorite is seeing the corn and soybean fields in Missouri turning golden brown.  This signifies one thing: it’s time for harvest.

I often argue with my coworkers because I know I have the best job in the company. And one main reason is because of the crop updates I host throughout the planting and harvest seasons. It doesn’t get much better than traveling across the country, meeting new people and talking about agriculture.

For those of you who haven’t seen my harvest or planting updates from the field, I travel to a different state each week and talk to farmers about how planting or harvest is progressing. I then compare their responses to the Weekly USDA Crop Progress Report. We post the videos on the Monsanto Website, as well as the Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts.

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