Crop year started out great, but now USDA says corn, beans down 12-13%

WASHINGTON — The drought continues to intensify across much of the United States, and the USDA’s Aug. 10 Crop Production report shares the impact on this year’s farm crops.

The U.S. Drought Monitor for Aug. 7 shows 52.27 percent of the U.S. is in moderate drought or worse. ‘Extreme’ and ‘exceptional’ drought conditions expanded in the central part of the nation, particularly in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois.

Corn down 13%

Despite planting the largest number of acres to corn in the past 75 years, drought-hammered farmers are forecast to produce 10.8 billion bushels in 2012, down 13 percent from 2011.

Based on conditions as of Aug. 1, corn yields are expected to average 123.4 bushels per acre, down 23.8 bushels from last year and the lowest average yield since 1995. Ohio’s average corn yield is forecast at 126 bushels per acre, down 32 bushels from last year.

And that means there’s going to be a lot less corn around, said Ohio State University Extension ag economist Matt Roberts.

He said this forecast means there will be 2.3 billion fewer bushels of corn to be consumed than in 2011, “which means that consumption has to be rationed out.

“And even though ethanol will be down about 10 percent and exports will be down by 25 percent from two years ago, we will still end up with extremely tight inventories,” Roberts said.

Beans down, too

Just as with corn producers, soybean growers are greatly affected by the drought conditions in the United States. This year’s soybean production is forecast at 2.69 billion bushels, down 12 percent from 2011.

Soybean yield is expected to average 36.1 bushels per acre, down 5.4 bushels from the 2011 crop. In Ohio, soybean yield is an estimated 42 bushels per acre. Although acreage in Ohio is up 40,000 from last year, the lower production would still push total soybean production down in Ohio by about 11 percent.

Wheat up

In contrast to corn and soybeans, all wheat production remains largely unaffected by the drought and is forecast at 2.27 billion bushels, up 13 percent from 2011.

The yield for all wheat is forecast at 46.5 bushes per acre, up 0.9 bushel from last month, and up 2.8 bushels up from last year.

Ohio’s wheat production stayed strong, with a yield of 67 bushels per acre, 9 bushels higher than last year’s state average. But harvested acres are an estimated 525,000, down 325,000 acres form 2011.

Total alfalfa hay production is forecast at 945,000 tons in Ohio, down 27 percent from last year, and all other hay types are also down an estimated 9 percent.

The report also included the first indication for this year’s cotton production. Growers are forecast to produce 17.7 million 480-pound bales this growing season, up 13 percent from 2011. Producers expect to harvest 10.8 million acres of all cotton, up 14 percent from last year.

Farms on the brink

The impact on farmers is going to be tough, Roberts said.

“I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone, especially growers,” he said. “For most farmers, this is the year that they will lose much of the profits they’ve made over five good years.

“I don’t expect to see a lot of bankruptcies, but certainly there will be a lot of belt-tightening among farmers this year. With crop insurance so widespread, it will help ensure that we don’t see a lot of bankruptcies and help farmers weather this storm.”

“Overall, it’s going to be a very bad year for the farm economy.”

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