WOOSTER, Ohio — The harvest is well underway in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and much like the spring planting season, the weather and field conditions are almost ideal.
The only thing not looking good is the crop — which endured an unusually wet June and July, followed by a dry period in August, before the crop seemed to give up — giving way to an early process of drying down.
On the positive side, the harvest is well-ahead of usual, and the quality seems good. On the negative side, the early maturity has led to reduced yields.
On a sunny afternoon, Oct. 15, Stark County crop and dairy farmer J.R. Rosenberger rolled through a field of corn that was averaging 200 bushels to the acre — a good yield for any year. But he also has some fields that are only averaging 110 bushels per acre.
“The year we had, it (yield) was up and down,” Rosenberger said. “You get in the bottoms where we got all of that rain, and it didn’t do very good. But you get up on the hills … it’s running real good.”
He had about 40 acres of beans to finish, and hoped to be done shelling corn by the end of the week. Rosenberger and his family also operate a dairy, which is where the bulk of their grain goes.
The same yield range is being seen by farmers across a large part of the state.
Ohio’s current corn yield stands at 165 bushels per acre, compared to 176 bushels last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. And soybeans are averaging 50 bushels per acre in Ohio, compared to 52.5 bushels per acre last year.
Good grain, but not as much
Greg McNaull, who operates McNaull Family Farms with his family in Ashland County, said the quality of grain crops have been good this fall — but the quantity is down. He’s seeing a range from about 160 bushels per acre, to about 100 bushels per acre.
On the plus-side, he’s already done with soybeans and more than half done with corn.
“Generally our goal is to get finished up by Thanksgiving, so to be half done here in the middle of October, we’re pretty pleased,” he said. “The corn is dry this year and good test weight and good quality.”
According to National Agricultural Statistics Service, 35 percent of Ohio corn was harvested for grain as of Oct. 13, compared to only 16 percent this time last year. The percentage is likely much higher now, following another week of mostly dry weather.
Soybeans, likewise, were 65 percent harvested, compared to only 28 percent last year.
“Moisture content of corn and soybeans have been ideal, due to the normal fall temperatures and below-average precipitation, making harvest go very smoothly, and giving crops time to dry out,” according to the Great Lakes Regional Office of NASS.
And in Pennsylvania, growers there are also ahead. Corn harvested for silage is 93 percent finished, compared to 76 percent last year, and corn harvested for grain is 32 percent done, compared to 14 percent last year.
In addition to low yields, Ohio and Pennsylvania farmers are also seeing low prices. Corn is selling in the $3-$4 a bushel range — below break-even for many of the farmers who want to sell it.
The prices at harvest are “terrible,” said Larry Fryfogle, who does custom harvesting near Beloit, Ohio.
“It’s a joke,” said Fryfogle. “Corn at $3.50, soybeans at $8.50-$8.30. We ain’t making no money. We’re just doing it because we’re dumb farmers.”
His family also operates a dairy in the area. Lower grain prices have helped some dairy and livestock farmers, because they’re paying less for feed. But Fryfogle said the price of milk is falling, as well.
Across the nation
According to the latest U.S. crop production report, released Oct. 9, the nation’s corn crop is expected to produce 13.6 billion bushels, down 5 percent from last year’s crop. Average yield so far this year is 168 bushels per acre, about 3 bushels per acre less than last year.
Looking at soybeans, the national forecast is 3.89 billion bushels, down 1 percent from last year. The national soybean yield this year is 47.2 bushels per acre, down .3 bushels from last year.