Farmers in Maryland, as well as those across the country, plan to seed fewer acres of corn and plant more soybeans this year, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While that could bode well for the health of the Chesapeake Bay, it may result in consumers paying higher prices at the supermarket checkout counter.
In Maryland, corn acreage is expected to fall 9.26 percent to 490,000 acres this year while corn planting nationwide is expected to drop 8 percent to 86 million bushels.
The 50,000 acres that state farmers are taking out of corn this year appear to be going to soybeans.
According to the federal government's Prospective Planting Report issued during the week, Maryland farmers will be planting 50,000 acres more of soybeans this year than last.
Soybean acreage is expected to total 450,000 acres.
In addition, farmers here reported that they planted an estimated 255,000 acres of winter wheat last fall, up 35,000 acres from the 220,000 acres last year.
Maryland's barley acreage is up 3,000 acres from last year to 48,000 acres. Growers expected to harvest hay from 205,000 acres, down 10,000 acres from 2007 but the same as in 2006.
Nationwide, farmers are expected to plant 74.8 million acres of soybean this year. This is an increase of 18 percent over last year, but still 1 percent below the record high in 2006.
Farmers in neighboring Delaware expect to follow suit. Producers there say they will plant 200,000 acres of soybeans this year, compared to 150,000 acres in 2007. This would be the largest soybean acreage since 2004.
An estimated 145,000 acres of corn is anticipated, down 50,000 from the 195,000 planted last year. This would be the smallest corn acreage since 1989.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson said he was not surprised by projections in the government report.
"I have been saying since last summer that corn acreage was going to go down because of the cost," he said. "The cost of growing an acre of corn has increased tremendously, at least 30 percent."
The price of soybeans was another major factor in the decision of farmers, both here and across the country, to plant less corn this year.
Richardson said that soybean prices have been hovering around $15 a bushel in Maryland this year, up from about $7 a bushel this time last year.
"And soybeans are a cheaper crop to plant," he said.