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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

USDA Predicts More Soybean Acres This Year

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is predicting fewer acres will be planted in corn this year, compared to last year, while soybean acreage will be up.

In its Prospective Plantings report, the federal agency uses survey data collected from farmers to estimate how much of each grain will be planted. While the corn estimate of 91.7 million acres would mark the lowest acreage since 2010, it would still rank as the fifth largest planting of that grain in the United States since 1944.

But with the price of corn down to around $5 per bushel, after recent peaks that exceeded $7 per bushel, some farmers may plant more soybeans than they have in the past few years.

The soybean estimate is for a record high of 81.5 million acres, up six percent from last year.

Dale Durchholz, a senior market analyst with the risk management group AgriVisor, says it’s a little too soon to say which crop will ultimately gain acres, and results may not be consistent across the corn belt. He’s hearing from Iowa farmers that they may be seeking more of a balanced rotation between corn and soybeans, after years that tilted toward corn.

“With spring not going to be early this year,” Durchholz said, “you really wonder, will we really see—if plantings end up going up—will it be corn or will it be beans [that goes up]? And I think it could, as much as anything, maybe be beans a little bit.”

But Durchholz says in Illinois soybeans may actually lose a little ground.  

Even if farmers plant less, analysts still expect corn to remain the single-largest American crop, especially in the Midwest. But the drought in 2012 followed by spring flooding in many areas in 2013 leave observers and farmers alike noting the likelihood that Mother Nature will dole out some kind of weather that rocks all the projections and intentions.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.