Wyoming Planting Report: Dry beans aplenty in 2014; More beets, too, less corn | TheFencePost.com

Wyoming Planting Report: Dry beans aplenty in 2014; More beets, too, less corn

Staff reports

Thanks to steady bean prices and fallen corn prices, Wyoming farmers will be growing a lot more dry beans this year, according to a projected planting report released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service this past week.

Dry bean acres is where Wyoming will see its biggest percentage jump in 2014, with 33 percent more than last year, according to the report.

They're not alone.

Across the country, U.S. farmers are expected to plant 24 percent more acres of dry beans.

CORN

Much like the rest of the U.S., Wyoming farmers will plant less corn this spring — about 15 percent less than they did in the Cowboy State in 2013, according to the projected plantings report.

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Wyoming farmers are expected to plant 85,000 corn acres this year, down 15 percent from last year.

Nationwide, corn acres for 2014 are estimated to be down 4 percent from last year.

A shift away from corn to dry beans, soybeans (which is expected to see an all-time high in acres across the U.S. in 2014) had been expected, as prices favor other crops.

Also, farmers have aggressively planted corn in recent years and the need for rotation should prompt more growth of other crops.

Sugar beets

Wyoming is one of only four states to see an increase in sugar beet acres.

Nationwide, sugar beet acres are expected to be down about 4 percent.

The increase in acres locally, however, makes some farmers "a little nervous," they said, since the U.S. already faces a sugar surplus that caused prices to plummet last year, and prices have only recovered a little since then.

When the price of a crop falls, farmers often plant less of it and instead plant others. But sugar beet growers have little say in how much they produce. Due to price volatility and other unique aspects of the sugar industry, nearly all sugar beet farmers in the U.S. grow the crop under contracts with cooperatives, and because of that, they're required to grow a certain amount of beets each year.

Heading into spring planting a year ago, the sugar surplus in the U.S. — which many in the industry attribute to the government over-importing sugar from Mexico — caused prices to fall by about 40 percent from where they'd been a year earlier.

Despite the nation's ongoing oversupply issue, the Denver-based Western Sugar Cooperative — which works with sugar beet growers in Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Montana — is increasing acreage in all four of its states.

They are the only four states in the U.S. increasing production, according to the NASS report.

Kent Wimmer, CEO of Western Sugar, said the cooperative is increasing production in its four-state area this year partly to make up for its drop in acres a year earlier, following the 2012 drought. That's led to a smaller inventory for Western Sugar this year, which along with a number of other things, is factored into Western Sugar's formula for figuring out how many acres their farmers plant each year.

Even though there's collectively too much sugar in the U.S. and prices are low, Western Sugar still has to produce enough to make good on contracts with its buyers, even if prices aren't ideal for farmers. ❖

ANTICIPATED CROP ACRES FOR 2014

Crop Acres (change from 2013) U.S. Rank

Wheat 160,000 (+7%) 30

Corn 85,000 (-15%) 37

Barley 80,000 (same) 7

Dry Beans 52,000 (+33%) 7

Sugar Beets 30,800 (+1%) 7

Oats 27,000 (-7%) 24

Anticipated hay acres harvested this year: About 1 million acres (up 1%, ranking 23rd nationally)

Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service