USDA's 2006 “Prospective Plantings” estimates U.S. farmers will plant record soybean acres and fewer corn acres this year. Farmers intend to plant 76.9 million acres of soybeans, up 7% from last year — the largest planted soybean acreage on record.

Large increases are expected in the Corn Belt, “including 600,000 more acres in Illinois, and 500,000 more acres in Indiana.” Meanwhile, corn is expected on 78 million acres in 2006, down 5% from 2005. This would be the lowest corn acreage since 2001.

USDA says farmers are switching from corn to less input-intensive crops due to high fertilizer and fuel costs. Wheat is expected to total 57.1 million acres, down slightly from 2005. This will be the lowest wheat acreage since 1972.