|By MEGAN KUHN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — U.S. farmers won’t see record corn and soybean crops as in 2004, but the numbers appear stronger than expected, according to a panel of experts reviewing the August USDA crop production report at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 12.
As of Aug. 1, U.S. corn production is estimated at 10.3 billion bushels, with the average yield at 139.2 bushels per acre. This is down 12 percent from last year’s crop, but up 3 percent from 2003.
The nation’s soybean production is forecast at 2.79 billion bushels, down 11 percent from last year’s record crop, but up 14 percent from 2003. Yields are expected to average 38.7 bushels per acre.
Dry, hot weather, which depleted soil moisture levels and stressed crops throughout the Corn Belt states contributed to the lower crop estimates, according to the USDA report.
While the fate of this year’s corn crop has, for the most part, already been decided, the soybean crop is still developing and timely rains are important, said Chris Hurt, a Purdue University agricultural economist.
“The yields are based on normal weather conditions, so timely rain, really any rain, is very important to maintain soybean yields,” he said.
According to Greg Preston, director of Indiana agricultural statistics, Hoosier farmers are expected to produce 819.3 million bushels of corn and 251.6 million bushels of soybeans this year.
If these numbers hold, both crops will be down 12 percent from the record high 2004 crop.
Indiana’s average corn yield is forecast at 145 bushels per acre and the state’s expected average soybean yield is 46 bushels per acre.
Preston said the unpredictable weather conditions across the state so far this year have caused crops in some areas to fare better than others.
“We have seen very spotty precipitation throughout the state,” he said. “We are saying that crop conditions in Indiana are ‘highly variable’ in 2005.”
After hearing the report, Hurt said the numbers were pleasing for Indiana.
“Overall these are slightly better yields than what we guessed,” he said. “They are about 2-3 bushels better in corn and 1-2 bushels in soybeans.”
Hurt added that with the positive crop production estimates, net farm income for the state should be decent.
“This year doesn’t seem to be a disastrous year for farm income for the state as a whole,” he said.
Net farm income, based on estimates from Purdue, is expected to be $900 million to $1 billion in Indiana for 2005.
“The 10-year average is $1.1 billion, so this estimate is about 10-20 percent off the average,” Hurt said. “However, producers are in a little stronger of a financial position from last year (when the state’s net farm income was $1.6 billion) to help them handle it this year.”
Reaction to the report
“This is better news than anticipated,” said Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman of the report. “We feared it could be worse.”
Skillman said she has heard concerns from farmers throughout the state.
“We know individual producers will still be affected and we are prepared to go to work to address the problems,” she said.
She said that the state agriculture department will continue to monitor the crop conditions throughout the state, especially in the most stressed areas, including the southwest, northwest and north central districts.
Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Andy Miller added, “We do have areas that are still not out of the woods, so we’ll use this data to help producers in those areas.”
Both Skillman and Miller encouraged producers with specific concerns about this year’s corn and soybean crops to contact the agriculture department.
Midwest crop forecasts
Due to extreme drought conditions in west central through northern Illinois, the 2005 Illinois corn and soybean crops are expected to yield much lower than normal. Soybean yields are forecast at 39 bushels per acre, 11.5 bushels below last year.
The corn crop is expected to yield 125 bushels per acre, down 55 bushels per acre from last year’s record yield and the lowest yield since 113 bushels per acre in 1995, according to the Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service.
Corn production in Illinois would be 1.49 billion bushels, down 28 percent from last year. Soybean production is expected to reach 376 million bushels, down 25 percent from 2004’s record production and the lowest since 1991.
Iowa’s corn crop is looking promising this year, with production forecasted at 2.07 million bushels and yields expecting to average 164 bushels per acre. If realized, this would be the state’s second largest corn crop. The soybean crop is estimated at 442.2 million bushels, with an average yield of 44 bushels per acre.
Ohio’s average corn yield is forecast at 135 bushels per acre. If realized, total state production of 434.7 million bushels would be 12 percent less than was produced in 2004. Soybean yields are forecast at 42 bushels per acre and total state production is expected to be 186.1 million bushels.
Corn production in Kentucky is forecast at 150.8 million bushels, with average yields at 130 bushels per acre. Kentucky soybean production for 2005 is forecast at 50 million bushels, with yields averaging 40 bushels per acre.
Michigan corn farmers expect a yield of 135 bushels per acre, up 1 bushel from 2004. Soybean production in Michigan is expected to total 75.7 million bushels, up slightly from last year. Soybean yield is forecast at 39 bushels per acre.
Tennessee’s corn production is forecast at 71.7 million bushels, down 17 percent from a year ago. The state’s soybean production is forecast at 48 million bushels, down less than 1 percent from last year.
For the complete USDA Crop Production report, visit www.usda.gov/nass
Published in the August 17, 2005 issue of Farm World.