“For corn acreage, two questions need to be answered: 1) How many acres of corn need to be planted in 2011? 2) Is there opportunity to accommodate the needed increase? An opinion about the amount of acreage needed is influenced by a number of factors, including the likely strength of demand, a judgment about the appropriate level of price, the desired level of 2011-12 marketing year–ending stocks, and the expected U.S. average yield in 2011, he said.

“With prices at ‘reasonable’ levels, it appears that corn consumption would likely be near 13.25 billion bushels during the 2011-12 marketing year. To bring some price relief to end users of corn, but maintain prices at profitable levels for producers, some buildup in year-ending stocks should be an objective for next year,” he said.

An inventory near 1 billion bushels would not provide a large buffer for production shortfalls beyond 2011, but would likely meet the dual price objective. An increase in stocks of 325 million bushels would require a crop of 13.575 billion bushels, he said.

“For now, the safest assumption about the 2011 average corn yield is a trend value. However, there doesn’t seem to be complete agreement on trend value. The USDA and others are using a trend yield of 162 bushels. Our analysis suggests that trend yield for 2011 is close to 159 bushels.

“A yield of 162 bushels implies that harvested acreage would need to be near 83.8 million and planted acreage near 90.9 to produce a crop of 13.575 bushels. A yield of 159 bushels implies harvested acreage of 85.4 and planted acreage of 92.5 million. To allow for yield risk, we still believe planted acreage of corn needs to be near 93 million in 2011,” he said.

The recent history of total planted acreage of crop land in the U.S. shows that total acreage tends to expand when commodity prices are high, he said.

“It should be possible to plant an additional 4.8 million acres of corn in 2011, even with an increase in winter wheat and cotton acreage. However, corn prices will have to remain high enough to motivate such a large increase,” he said.

Corn prices continued to move higher through last week.  However, prices for the 2011 crop have not increased as much as the old crop. March 2012 futures are 90 cents below March 2011 futures prices, he said.

More strength in new crop corn prices may be required to get the needed acreage response, he added.