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UPDATE 1-U.S. corn planting pace slowest since 2013; soybeans also lag

Julie Ingwersen

(Recasts with USDA figures, adds historical data, analyst comments, industry background)

CHICAGO, May 13 (Reuters) - U.S. farmers planted 30% of the U.S. 2019 corn crop as of Sunday, the slowest pace for mid-May since 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported on Monday.

The figure lagged the five-year average of 66% as well as the average estimate in a Reuters analyst survey of 35%.

Wet weather and cool conditions have slowed field work this spring across much of the U.S. Corn Belt, prompting some to speculate whether farmers might plant less corn, or switch some acres to soybeans, which can be seeded later in the season.

"Could we lose a couple million (corn) acres? If this weather keeps up, yeah," said Jack Scoville, analyst with the Price Futures Group in Chicago.

The USDA on Monday said U.S. farmers had seeded 9% of their soybeans, lagging the five-year average of 29% and behind the average analyst estimate of 15%.

Switching corn acres to soybeans could add to burdensome supplies of the oilseed at a time when the United States is caught in a trade war with China, the world's largest soybean importer.

The USDA last week raised its forecast of U.S. soybean inventories remaining at the end of the 2018/19 marketing year on Aug. 31 to a record-high 995 million bushels, more than double the stocks a year earlier.

However, given flagging prices for Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures, which touched a decade low on Monday below $8 a bushel, farmers may leave some corn acres unplanted.

"With this trade war stuff, if you've got the option to plant nothing, that might be your best option," said Matt Connelly, analyst at the Hightower Report in Chicago.

The USDA in March said U.S. farmers intended to plant 92.8 million acres of corn and 84.6 million acres of soybeans.

During the past 20 years, final U.S. corn acreage has come in below farmers' March intentions 10 times. During those years, the average decline was 0.9%, or 678,818 acres. The biggest decline, both in percentage terms and total acreage, was in 2013.

As with this year, farmers in 2013 faced severe planting delays.

For wheat this past week, the USDA said the U.S. spring wheat crop was 45% planted, behind the five-year average of 67% but ahead of the average analyst estimate of 35%.

The USDA rated 64% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, unchanged from the previous week and matching the average pre-report estimate among analysts. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago Additional reporting by Mark Weinraub in Chicago Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)

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