Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
Staff Reporter

Photos courtesy of the Ne Corn Board

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August 20, 2012
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Crop production declines nationally

The drought is the number one concern for crop and livestock producers across not just Nebraska, but the entire country. The crop progress report that USDA put out on August 10 reported that the estimated corn crop production for the entire U.S. will be the lowest this year since 2006, and the lowest yield since 1995.

“The 2012 corn planted area for all purposes is estimated at 96.4 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate but up 5 percent from 2011. This represents the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1937, when an estimated 97.2 million acres were planted. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 87.4 million acres, down 2 percent from the June forecast but up 4 percent from 2011,” according to the report.

It continued, “Widespread drought and extreme temperatures during June and July have had an adverse affect on the 2012 corn crop. As of July 29, only 24 percent of the corn acreage was rated in good to excellent condition in the 18 major producing States, compared to 62 percent rated in these two categories last year at this time. In contrast, 48 percent of the corn acreage was rated in very poor to poor condition in these same states, compared to only 14 percent rated in these two categories last year at this time. Eight of the major corn producing states report 50 percent or more of the corn acreage rated in very-poor to poor condition as of July 29.”

This decrease in production has created a large increase in the price of corn. As of closing on Thurday, August 16, corn was trading for $7.95/bushel, and has traded as high as $8.29/bushel right after the report was released.

Based on August 1 conditions, Nebraska’s corn crop is forecast at 1.34 billion bushels, 13 percent below last year’s production and the smallest crop since 2006, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Nebraska Field Office. Area to be harvested for grain, at 9.1 million acres, is down 5 percent from a year ago. Yield is forecast at 147 bushels per acre, down 13 bushels from last year and the lowest since 2003.

“For ethanol and livestock, there will be more challenges for us to meet the needs of our value added industry. In Nebraska, 65 percent of our corn comes off of irrigated acres. We are in a better position because we will maintain some fairly good yields in a lot of our irrigated areas. However, with the dryland producers we are seeing a lot of that is being chopped or baled for feed right now,” said Don Hutchens, Executive Director for the Nebraska Corn Board.

He continued, “We are seeing a tremendous number of corn stalks, and wheat stalks that is being used for roughage. We hope that some of that, along with distillers grains, will help feed dry lot cows or carry some of the early weaned calves further down the road at hopefully a cost that the feeder can sustain. The livestock industry, and especially the beef industry is critical in Nebraska. We are better situated because we are the second highest cattle on feed state, third in corn production and second in ethanol production. We want to continue feeding cattle in Nebraska, and we hope these yields can do that.”

Corn in the dough stage was 86 percent, compared to 51 last year and 11 days ahead of 58 average. Corn in the dent stage reached 51 percent, ahead of 7 last year and 14 average. Corn that has reached maturity was 6 percent, compared to 0 last year and average. Corn conditions rated 22 percent very poor, 19 poor, 28 fair, 27 good, and 4 excellent, well below 76 percent good to excellent last year and 77 average. Irrigated corn conditions rated 51 percent good to excellent and dryland corn rated 2, according to the Nebraska Weather and Crops report released by the USDA on August 13.

For the farmers who are under irrigation, long, hot days and warm nights have stressed the crop in some areas. “A lot of the corn is fast maturing this year. There’s not a lot you can do but keep the pivots running and try to keep moisture in the ground. Crop insurance will be extremely important this year as well,” Hutchens said.

For soybean production, the national estimates were also lowered in the crop progress report.

“Soybean production is forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, down 12 percent from last year. Based on August 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 36.1 bushels per acre, down 5.4 bushels from last year. If realized, the average yield will be the lowest since 2003. Area for harvest is forecast at 74.6 million acres, down 1 percent from June but up 1 percent from 2011,” according to the report.

The crop comments section of the crop progress report stated this: “Planting conditions this spring were much improved from last year when severe flooding in several areas during April contributed to delays in soybean planting. Planting of this year’s soybean crop was underway in all 18 major States by the end of April. Heavy showers fell across parts of the northern and western Corn Belt during the first week of May, but very little precipitation occurred in the major soybean growing areas for the remainder of the month, allowing planting to remain at a pace ahead of last year and the 5-year average,” the reported read.

However, as the summer continued, the crop rating began to decline. “Although hot, dry weather has helped the soybean crop mature rapidly this year, the heat and lack of rainfall has taken a toll on the condition of the crop. As of June 3, the earliest date soybean conditions have ever been published, 65 percent of the crop was rated as good to excellent. However, condition ratings deteriorated during June and July as drought conditions worsened across much of the Midwest. By July 29, only 29 percent of the crop was rated as good to excellent. This is the second lowest good to excellent rating on record for that week since records began in 1980, only better than 1988 when 24 percent of the crop was rated as good to excellent,” the report stated.

In Nebraska, crop production is a little higher than the national average, although the same trends that happened nationally happened in Nebraska. “Soybeans blooming were 97 percent, ahead of 93 last year but near 96 average. Soybeans setting pods were 83 percent, ahead of 66 last year and 74 average. Soybeans turning color were at 2 percent, compared to 0 last year and average. Soybean conditions rated 21 percent very poor, 25 poor, 36 fair, 17 good, and 1 excellent, well below last year’s 78 percent good to excellent and 77 average,” according to the most recent Weather and Crops report.

Soybean production in Nebraska is forecast at 215 million bushels, 17 percent below last year and lowest since 2007. Area for harvest, at 5.0 million acres, is up 4 percent from 2011. Yield is forecast at 43 bushels per acre, down 10.5 bushels from last year and lowest since 2003.

The drought continues to hit pastures and ranges. As of August 13, pasture and range conditions rated 59 percent very poor, 33 poor, 7 fair, 1 good, and 0 excellent, well below 75 percent good to excellent last year and 72 average.

The impact of this drought will likely go beyond production. Checkoff money, which is collected on every bushel of corn that is sold, is expected to be much lower than anticipated this year.

“It’s going to limit our ability to listen to funding requests throughout the year. We have a low carryout projected,” said Hutchens.

Food prices are also a concern for many consumers. “Unfortunately the drought has created these higher prices. No one can anticipate it, and we have seen much higher commodities now than we have in the past. There is always a question about how the drought will affect food prices. There is a lot that goes into the price of food outside of the price that farmers receive. Before the drought, we had the cheapest, most abundant, safest food supply in the world. After the drought, I think we will still have that,” Hutchens stated. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Aug 22, 2012 09:10AM Published Oct 1, 2012 08:32AM Copyright 2012 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.