A crop report issued Thursday by the Agriculture Department indicates that America’s farmers are preparing to plant 97.3 million acres of corn, one of the largest crops in history, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The forecast is on target with what grain industry analysts had expected.

“The forecast gives us an indication of what farmers intend to plant as of early March, but between now and fall harvest the influence of still-dry soils, volatile commodity prices and weather uncertainty will play out, which may change what farmers plant,” says AFBF crops economist Todd Davis.

According to Davis, if realized, this year’s corn planting would be the largest acreage since 1936, when 102 million acres were planted. The most recent modern era production year that comes close to this year’s corn planting outlook was 2012, when 97.1 million acres were planted. This year’s planting and a trend yield of 163.54 bushels per acre could result in a final U.S. corn yield of around 14.6 billion bushels.

The soybean planting estimate came in at 77.1 million acres, which is slightly less than the 2012 crop. However, according to USDA’s February yield projection of 44.4 bushels per acre, 77.1 million soybean acres would produce a record soybean crop of 3.38 billion bushels, Davis notes.

“If these early planting and yield projections are realized, corn and soybeans stocks will increase, which would ultimately lead to lower feed costs for livestock and poultry farmers,” Davis says.

USDA’s March 1 survey of grain stocks pegged the nation’s corn inventory at 5.4 billion bushels, down 10% compared to a year ago, while soybean stocks were measured at 999 million bushels, down 27% from a year prior. 

“The drought is forecast to ease in the Western Corn Belt but will persist in Nebraska and Kansas, intensifying in Texas and Oklahoma. However, just because the drought may be easing doesn’t guarantee record crop yields in those areas,” Davis cautions.

Acreage of other feedgrains is projected to be up from last year as well, with grain sorghum, and oat plantings forecast to be up by 22%, and 5%, respectively. Barley acreage is expected to remain flat.

Wheat plantings are projected to be up 1% from last year. Cotton plantings are projected to be 10 million acres, 19% lower than last year.