Farmers intend to plant almost 96 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1937, according to the March 30 USDA Prospective Plantings report. Specifically, the report projects 95.9 acres will be planted to corn. That’s about 1.2 million acres more than the average guess heading in. That would make for almost 4 million more acres of corn than last year. CME analysts point out the majority of added acres is projected to be in the highest corn-yield states.

With expectations of ending corn stocks for 2011-12 to be near pipeline levels, the size of the 2012 crop has substantial price implications, according to Darrel Good, University of Illinois (UI) agricultural economist.

“New crop prices continue to reflect the larger-than-expected planting intentions revealed on March 30, an early start to the planting season, and the recent improvement in soil moisture conditions in a large part of the Corn Belt,” Good explained April 16. “While futures prices have declined over the past week, basis levels remain generally strong and the May/July futures inversion has increased,” Good explains. “These relationships suggest on-going tightness in stocks and/or a slow rate of movement relative to the pace of consumption. While evidence about the pace of consumption is mixed, expect corn prices to remain under pressure until there is convincing evidence that the necessary rationing has not occurred or concerns about 2012 production develop.”

In the meantime, analysts with the Agricultural Marketing Service explained Friday, “Everything is running ahead of schedule so far this year, from cattle being turned out to farm production, which should increase efficiency with perhaps an extra cutting of hay or double cropping early harvested wheat fields.”

For the week ending April 17, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:

Corn – 17% is in the ground, 12% more than last year and the five-year average.

Winter wheat – 29% was at or beyond the heading stage, 18% more than last year and 21% more than the average. 64% is in Good to Excellent condition, 28% more than last year.

Spring wheat – 37% is planted, which is 32% head of last year and 28% more than the five-year average. 10% has emerged, 9% more than last year and the average.

Sorghum – 18% is planted , even with the average and 1% behind last year.

Oats – 76% of seeding is complete , which is 32% ahead of last year and 28% ahead of the average pace. 51% of the crop has emerged, 15% ahead of last year and 14% ahead of the average.

Barley –33% is planted , which is 21% more than last year and 16% ahead of normal. 5% has emerged, which is 3% more than last year and 2% ahead of the five-year average.