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Planting for the Future: Ag Outlook 2023

    This year Congress is considering a new Farm Bill. Just like the recently passed Bipartisan infrastructure legislation that is boosting investments in our nation’s road and transportation system, the Farm Bill is legislation that is important to aide our nation’s farmers. The wide-ranging legislation will help insure our nation’s food production, make our land and farms more productive, aide farmers who are being asked to produce more for a growing population here in the US and around the world, and to do it more sustainably. One look at the year ahead provides important insight on the size and scope of what’s growing on America’s farms this year, and how farmers will deliver.

    According to the USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, farmers intend to plant 92 million acres of corn. That’s up 4% from last year. Soybean growers intend to plant 87.5 million acres this year, which is a slight increase from last year. The all-wheat planted area is estimated at 49.9 million acres, up 9% from the previous year. Winter wheat planted estimates are 37.5 million acres, a 13% increase.

    Planting and tending this vast acreage requires tractors, machines, and equipment of all shapes and sizes that can get the job done reliably and efficiently. That’s why nearly all farm equipment is powered by diesel engines. Newer generations of diesel technology are not only more powerful and fuel efficient, but also near-zero emissions.

    Precision Farming is the Future: But the most significant boost to farm productivity in this generation likely won’t be as much about more horsepower or size of the machine or implement, but the increasing use of precision farming strategies. Through localized and real-time data, farmers can precisely manage their land and crop cycles, adjusting planting and applications of nutrients, fertilizer and seed to boost crop yields, reducing inputs like diesel fuel and fertilizers. That saves money and increases the sustainability of the land.

    Precision farming uses advanced location, guidance, and other technologies on tractors and machines - both old and new. For example, guidance technologies use GPS and other location technologies to automatically steer the equipment. That minimizes tractor and machine passes through the fields, which saves time and reduces fuel consumption. Autonomous features on some newer machines enable farmers to control other machines or tractors in the field that are unmanned, addressing some of the labor challenges on many farms. 

    Learn more about precision farming technologies from the leaders: AGCO, Cummins, FPT Industrial, John Deere, Volvo, and Yanmar.

    Other precision technologies are found in planting and harvesting implements. By sensing soil conditions at each planting spot on a real-time basis, seed planting, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticide applications can all be precisely controlled to meet the varying conditions across the field. Taken together, investments in precision farming technology on tractors and machines helps boost yields, makes farmers more productive while being better for the soil and water, and saves money in the form of lower fuel, fertilizer, and nutrient consumption.

    Bullish on Biofuels: Like precision farming technologies, farmers embrace sustainability also by using renewable biodiesel fuels in their machines and equipment. Biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels are produced from agricultural by-products, wastes, and residues such as soybean, canola, and other plant oils, corn oil, rendered animal fats, winter oilseed cover crops, used cooking oil, and other biomasses. Using biobased diesel fuels reduces demand for conventional petroleum while also reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions. Approximately 3.2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel were consumed in the US in 2022. According to the Clean Fuels Alliance America, forecasts are for 6 billion gallons to be produced by 2025.

    Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture survey asked producers about their views on renewable diesel sectors. They found that when asked to look ahead five years, nearly half (46%) of respondents said they expected the renewable diesel industry to be larger than it is today. This compares to just 25% of respondents who expect the ethanol industry to grow in size over the next five years.

    In a follow-up question, respondents were asked what impact they expect the renewable diesel industry to have on soybean prices over the upcoming five years. The most common response chosen by 39% of respondents was a price increase of up to 50 cents per bushel.

    Using more renewable biodiesel fuels will go a long way toward helping secure our clean energy future by reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions on the farm that made it, from the trucks, trains, boats and barges that hauled it, and from those that consume it.