U.S. Farmers Are Planting Soybeans At Near Record Pace


The colder weather last week didn’t force the national planting progress pace to fall behind average. USDA’s latest Crop Progress report shows while corn planting is now right on track with average, the soybean planting pace is well ahead of average.

USDA’s report shows as of Sunday, April 30:

26% of the corn crop is planted, up 12 percentage points in a week

Corn planting is currently 13 points ahead of this time last year

Soybean planting is 19% complete, up 10 points in a week

Current soybean planting pace is 12 points ahead of last year

While 26% of the corn crop is planted, only 6% of it has emerged.

USDA also shows North Dakota farmers are still sidelined and haven’t planted any corn. The average for the state is 3% planted for this time of year. Wisconsin farmers are 9 points behind the average planting pace, at only 2% of the crop planted so far. Iowa farmers are also behind. 29% of the state’s corn crop has been planted so far, 5 points behind average.

However, there are some states with a rapid planting pace. That includes:

80% planted in Missouri vs. 41% average
60% planted in Tennessee vs. 46% average
52% planted in Kentucky vs. 36% average
40% planted in Illinois vs. 29% average

There are also several states seeing a breakneck soybean planting pace this year, including:

Arkansas 43% planted vs. 23% average
Louisiana 59% planted vs 39% average
Missouri 34% planted vs. 5% average
Illinois 39% planted vs. 15% average
Indiana 18% planted versus 9% average

Farmers in both South Dakota and North Dakota haven’t started planting soybeans yet. Farmers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin are behind in soybean planting.

“Looking at soybeans, we’ve never been this fast in states like Missouri and Tennessee,” says Lance Honig, chief of the crops branch at USDA-NASS.

Each week, NASS releases the Crop Progress report, which is the only weekly snapshot of planting, harvest and crop conditions from spring through fall. According to the latest report, more farmers are switching to planting soybeans earlier than ever when you break it out state-by-state, and it’s a trend that’s producing some firsts for even USDA-NASS.

Honig says as of May 2, 2021, farmers had 24% of the soybean crop planted nationwide. While that’s a quicker pace than this week’s 19%, Honig points out it’s never an exact comparison since the days change from year-to-year.

“But I’d say at best, we are very similar to 2021. I don’t see any other years that come close,” says Honig. “When you look at soybean planting progress, there’s not much history to compare to, quite frankly. Usually, we’re not really getting going until now.”

While this week’s report shows farmers in South Dakota and North Dakota haven’t started planting yet, that’s not a huge surprise.

“When you go north, it’s been snowing pretty recently, and so there’s no activity up there. But we really wouldn’t expect to see a whole lot of any activity up in the northern tier at this point anyway,” he says.

Honig says the weekly crop progress report from NASS is one of the most unique reports USDA releases throughout the year, partially because of its frequency. The other reason is how the agency gathers its data, which isn’t directly from farmers.

“It’s a lot more efficient if we can hit some folks who have some general knowledge on a county by county basis. We actually utilize folks like county Extension agents, some local FSA employees out in these counties, and we’re asking people to report for their county,” Honig explains.

Honig says that also allows the information to be consistent, since the reports are sent in by the same reporters in each county week after week and even year after year.

“That’s a really a big deal, because I tell people all the time when you look at these progress numbers, and even the condition numbers, the number itself is valuable. I’m not saying it isn’t. What’s most valuable is how it compares to what we’ve seen in previous years or averages or things of that nature,” he says.

Honig says the reports from around the country flood in Sunday night, and by Monday morning, USDA-NASS is at work compiling the data, which then is turned into the weekly crop progress report released every Monday at 4 p.m. EDT.