MINNEAPOLIS — It didn’t raise eyebrows, but if it comes to fruition, U.S. farmers’ planting intentions for corn in 2013 could break a seven-decade-old record.

“Today’s acreage numbers really aren’t the big issue. They simply confirm we are going to have planted acreage levels similar to last year. More importantly, we feel, is what type of yield potential is in front of us?” said Rich Nelson, chief strategist for Allendale Inc., based in Crystal Lake, Ill., in an interview with AgriNews .

U.S. corn farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn for 2013. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, if realized, that number of acres will represent the highest planted corn acres in the nation since 1936. In 1936, according to USDA, an estimated 102 million acres of corn was planted.

“At face value, it says that, weather permitting, we have the potential to start to rebuild some stocks here, particularly for corn and wheat,” said analyst Brian Basting of Advanced Trading, based in Bloomington, Ill.

Basting spoke during an Minneapolis Grain Exchange-sponsored media call following the release of the USDA planting intentions and grain stocks report on March 28, with federal offices being closed on Good Friday.

Soybean planting intentions were lower than expected, with farmers intending to plant 77.1 million acres of soybeans, down from the trade pre-report average estimate of 78.5 million acres. That would result in the fourth-largest planted soybean acres if realized.

Wheat planting intentions were at 56.4 million acres, up 1 percent from a year ago. Basting pointed out that a jump in intentions for hard red spring wheat planting came as a surprise.

“We saw the North Dakota acreage jump 450,000 acres from last year,” he said.

However, Basting noted that the story for planting now switches to a weather story and a “whether” story, whether weather conditions will move to a warming and drying scenario.

“There’s quite a bit of concern looking forward here the next 45 to 60 days about the snow pack, the ice pack, up in the northern Plains and Canada and the concern of flooding up there,” he said. “I think we’ll move forward and move the calendar over the next month and see how that weather develops in North Dakota and southern Canada.”

Basting noted that while farmers throughout the Corn Belt were well into spring planting this time in 2012, the scenario has changed.

“This year looks completely different from last year weather-wise. Ideal from the standpoint of planting was last year, how dry it was in many areas and how fast the planting took place. This year is not going to be a repeat of last year, needless to say,” he said.

Basting said with the intentions for all crops and even reaching trend yields, the picture for all grains could look very different going forward.

“Getting the cart well in front of the horse, since we have not planted one field yet, but with that number as high as it is, if we pencil in trend yields, we have a different picture than many people thought it would be. Weather permitting is the key here — what type of weather will we see in April 2013?” he said.

Nelson, who rattled audiences at the Allendale Ag Leaders Conference earlier in the year when he suggested that the drought maps don’t need to be “fixed” in order to have a record crop, noted that moisture problems have eased in many parts of the Corn Belt.

“We found very clear evidence that carry-in soil moisture is not the main determinant of yield. It is the top two feet of soil moisture, and that is determined by temperatures and moisture in the growing season itself,” he said. “The Eastern Corn Belt is fixed. Eastern Iowa is fixed. Minnesota and North Dakota are fixed. Missouri is fixed.”

Nelson also said that even with planting not starting as early as it did last year, talk of abandoned acres and major delays is premature.

“It’s still pretty darn early to start talking about delayed planting. If we look at Illinois, the 10-year average planting pace by April 15 is only 11 percent for corn. We will have a slight delay, but this is still very early to be discussing yield problems based on these issues,” he said.