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Clark County farms expect large corn crop

Dry weather hurt area bean fields.National crop forecast mirrors early harvests at Farm Science Review.

A nearly bone-dry August and early September will reduce soybean yields, but ears crammed with kernels have grain elevators worried about what they’ll do when the corn harvest reaches flood stage.

National crop forecasters late last week confirmed what Farm Manager Nathan Douridas discovered last week as he harvested crops for the Farm Science Review.

“Yield-wise, corn is running 180-220 bushels an acre,” said Douridas, who planted 460 acres at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, home to the Sept. 17-19 review.

“The hotter, drier spell doesn’t seem to have affected the corn,” Douridas said, but “essentially we lost the top end yield” from the soybeans “when the weather turned hot and dry.”

The resulting yields on 800 acres there still “should be slightly above average to average,” he said, but early hopes of getting 60 or more bushels have evaporated.

“In some cases it was probably (a loss of) five bushels per acre,” Douridas said, “and that’s a lot on soybeans.”

John Leighty, marketing services director for Trupointe, saw a statistical echo of Douridas’ observations when he reviewed the United States Department of Agriculture’s September crop forecasts released Thursday.

The forecast for the corn harvest went up 0.9 bushels per acre from the August forecast to a total of about 13.83 billion bushels.

“With the dryness, people were looking for maybe a little bit of a reduced crop,” Leighty said, but it appears the crop, expected to average 155.3 bushels per acre, was “pretty well made” by Sept. 1.

“The dry weather has definitely affected the bean crop,” Leighty added, with the U.S.D.A. estimating a 1.4 bushel decline over August estimates to 41.2 bushels per acre.

“We’re not going to see quite the revenue we’ve seen in the last two years” for farmers, he said, “but good.”

The bottom line for farmers will involve how the yields interact with prices, which have slid since last year.

Kirk Roetgerman, grain marketing services coordinator at Trupointe’s South Charleston facility, said that corn sold for $7.40 a bushel on Sept. 12, 2012, and between $4.50 and $5 on futures markets this Sept. 12. Soybeans also were down from $17.54 a bushel a year ago to between $13.30 and $14 a bushel this year.

He estimated that farmers who grossed about $1,100 an acre return on corn last year likely will see about $900 this year. Those who grossed $700 an acre on soybeans last year will see that slide to $650-$675 an acre.

Historically, those returns are “very good,” he said. “You take away the previous two years, and this is phenomenal.”

Douridas predicted it will be a little more so for farmers who have their own grain storage bins.

Because states like Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota planted their crops later and suffered through drier conditions, he expects crop prices to dip during the early harvest but rise again after poorer harvests trickle in.

Farmers who store their grain can hold and sell it when the prices rise.

Roetgerman’s immediate worry is whether the Trupointe elevator at South Charleston will be able to handle this year’s corn crop.

Even though the facility added 1 million bushels in permanent outdoor storage over the past year, a 40 percent boost to 3.5 million bushels, Advance Trading Inc., is estimating Ohio grain production this year will outstrip storage capacity by 35 million bushels.

Making the problem worse, he said, is uncertainty about rail service to haul the grain away. Because Southern poultry and pig farmers are buying South American grain, some of the previously available cars will be tied up and “that will be a major issue,” he said.

In the face of that, the elevator is preparing as best it can.

“We’re tying to keep our facilities as empty as possible,” Roetgerman said. “Any bushels of corn, any bushels of soybeans coming in right now” are being moved out before the busy period comes, he said.

To get a good start to the season, he added, “I have a private bean train sitting on our railroad tracks right now.”

Although everyone would prefer the facility to be able to stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, given the expected corn crop, “we know realistically it’s not going to happen,” Roetgerman said.

But there is one thought frustrated farmers might take comfort in during the wait: Because their corn has dried in the field, they’re likely not to have to pay as much to have it dried at the elevator.

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