Toughest decisions of the year still ahead for some

posted on Monday, June 17, 2019 in Current News

If you took prevented planting on some cornfields, should you still plant them to soybeans?

You may think you couldn’t possibly face any tougher challenges than you already have this spring. Depending on your situation, you may still have one of the toughest decisions to make.

If you have crop insurance and you declared prevented planting for corn on at least some of your acres, another decision is looming. Once the late-planting period for corn ends on June 25, you must decide whether to leave the field empty, take the full prevented planting payment and call it a year, or opt to plant soybeans and take a partial prevented planting payment for corn, the intended crop, instead.

From people we’ve talked with, what you decide may boil down to where you live, how much risk you want to take, whether USDA has clarified rules on trade disruption payments by then and other factors. The only thing certain is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all, easy answer in every case.

Purdue example:

Jim Mintert and Michael Langemeier are Purdue University Extension agricultural economists, and director and associate director, respectively, for Purdue’s Center for Commercial Agriculture. They prepared some examples to help people think through this decision. They posed this question: Would returns from planting soybeans late plus the 35% partial payment for prevented planting of corn be larger than the full prevented planting payment for those acres?

They assumed a planting date of July 1 for soybeans on the ground originally intended for corn, and a 200-bushel-per-acre actual production history. Their math works out that planting soybeans would need to net more than $243 per acre to be better than taking the full prevented planting payment.

That doesn’t count costs for maintaining weeds on ground you don’t plant, but it also doesn’t count increased cost for soybean seed for bumping rates to offset late planting. The University of Illinois has estimated maintenance costs on unplanted acres at $43 per acre. Purdue Extension soybean specialist Shaun Casteel estimates increased soybean seed cost at up to $30 per acre if you’re planting at the end of June.

Not that easy:

Farm managers we’ve talked to say there are more considerations than just the dollars and cents calculations. If you’re in the northern third of Indiana, soybean yield expectations drop drastically if you plant after June 25. It’s why few people double-crop soybeans there consistently. In the southern third of Indiana, respectable bean yields may still be possible from planting June 25 or even July 1.

Perhaps more importantly, there’s possible impact on your farm’s APH. From what we’re told, if you take prevented planting and don’t plant beans, there is no penalty on APH for corn for the year. But if you plant beans, you may be credited with a much lower APH for corn. Don’t take our word for it — check with your crop insurance agent.

Next, if you plant soybeans, you still have insurance coverage on those beans, but coverage drops for every day you plant after June 20, the final planting date for soybeans. These dates are statewide; they aren’t tailored to northern, central or southern areas of the state.

One farm manager thinks there’s an opportunity to improve your farm if you take full prevented planting and don’t plant soybeans. If it’s a wet field and that’s why you couldn’t plant, it’s a chance to install tile. There could also be the opportunity to plant cover crop species and build soil health. It’s often too late to plant diverse species after crop harvest, especially in northern Indiana.

Looming over this entire quagmire is whether you’ll get government trade disruption payments if you don’t plant a crop. As of now, the intent of USDA as determined by Mintert and Langemeier is that you wouldn’t be eligible. Whether USDA rethinks that decision before announcing payment rules is anybody’s guess.