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Cool summer sets expectations for a record harvest


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A mild summer across much of the nation's heartland has provided optimum growing conditions for the nation's corn and soybean crops. Pair that with high-yield seeds and other new farming technologies, and the U.S. is looking at busting records come harvest time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has predicted a record soybean crop of 3.8 billion bushels. And the corn crop, it said in July, would be large but not bigger than last year's record of 13.9 billion bushels. However, many market analysts and some farmers expect the USDA to revise expectations upward in a report based on field surveys that's due out Tuesday.

"Conditions look just fantastic across most of the country," Texas A&M University grain marketing economist Mark Welch said.

In a typical growing season, at least some corn-growing states would have experienced drought or other production problems. But the 18 states that grow 91 percent of the nation's corn have experienced nearly ideal conditions this year, as adequate rain fell when plants emerged and cooler summer temperatures minimized heat stress.

That's the case in Illinois, one of the nation's top corn and soybean states.

"Illinois has largely been dealt to date pretty close to a royal flush on weather and I'm sure that the yields are going to be very high here," said Scott Irwin, a University of Illinois professor of agricultural and consumer economics.

The expected large harvest has driven corn and soybean prices significantly lower, but it isn't expected to make much of a short-time difference in consumer food prices. However, since the grains are staples in livestock feed, lower prices could eventually lead to a decline in the cost of beef, pork, chicken and milk.

"Eventually the economics will feed through but I wouldn't expect much relief in 2015 yet. It just takes time to go through the systems," Irwin said.

Weather doesn't deserve all the credit for the amount of grain farmers are getting from each acre this year.

Agriculture companies have developed genetic characteristics in seeds that allow plants to be packed more densely per acre and arm them with resistance to drought, disease, and pests. In addition, larger planters and tractors equipped with GPS programs can run at night if needed, helping farmers adjust planting when weather delays field work.

"When conditions are right we have the ability to get in and get that crop established so much more quickly than we could in the past ..." Welch said. "We're just creating an environment that when the weather cooperates we're capturing more of the potential and the possibilities genetically that are within that corn plant."

During the lifetime of the average U.S. farmer, who's 58, corn yields have more than tripled from a national average of 44 bushels per acre in the 1950s to nearly 150 bushels per acre in recent years.

Average corn yields set a record in 2009 with 164.7 bushels per acre. The USDA previously estimated 165.3 bushels per acre this year, and some analysts are speculating about exceeding 170 bushels per acre.

The record soybean yield also came in 2009, an average of 44 bushels per acre for a 3.36 billion-bushel harvest. The USDA expects a national average of 45.2 bushels per acre and a crop of 3.8 billion bushels this fall.

Wayne Humphries, who farms about 1,000 acres in southeast Iowa, recently attended a National Corn Growers conference in Washington. What's unusual about this year, he learned, is that farmers who irrigate dry areas of Nebraska and Texas didn't turn on the water until late last month - weeks later than normal.

"People were there from all over in corn-producing states and they said it just looks really good," he said.

The downside of a bumper crop is depressed prices for the farmers' haul, meaning they could break even or lose money.

The price for corn scheduled for December delivery, widely considered a benchmark, was $3.66 per bushel Friday. That's at least 50 cents a bushel below what most farmers spent on seed, fertilizer, pest- and weed-control chemicals and fuel. Some farmers will store grain and sell when prices improve, while others may use a portion of their federal crop insurance that kicks in when prices fall below certain thresholds.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
fitzbeerman August 09 2014 at 10:44 AM

OMG what happened to Global Warming? You just can't trust scientists who get paid to make sure their research proves their theories. But I guess we will just be told this is proof of Climate Change.

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3 replies
jmc August 09 2014 at 10:34 AM

And it's ALL ours to share with whomever we want. Putin told us to keep it.

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alfredschrader August 09 2014 at 10:01 AM

Weeds are a problem, but I invented a solution and it saves the expense of Roundup or other weedacides.

Plow your field like you were going to plant, but don't plant your seeds.
Instead irrigate like you had planted your seeds.
In about a week all of the weed seeds will germinate in anticipation of you applying fertlizer and more water.
But instead, rake all of the weedlings into a pile away from your fields.
Then, plant your crop. You get about 98% fewer weeds.
You have to use the same technique with insects - you need to outsmart them, not buy insecticides.

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1 reply
posthuf alfredschrader August 09 2014 at 11:42 AM

Yeah, I've got all the time in the world to do that.

Meantime can I assume YOU will feed, clothe, and house my family while we're waiting for those crops to come in?

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posthuf August 09 2014 at 11:40 AM

"Cooling summer??????"

What happened to 'global warming?'

AKA 'climate change,' weather disruption,' 'climate confusion' and a dozen other names?

Is this the point where algore STOPS making money off his con and starts paying back to all the people he's raped and pillaged with his lies and distortions?

And how about the media who supported and conspired with him? The should also lose all their creds with the people of this world and cough up about 99.99% of their profits too.

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1 reply
Kate posthuf August 09 2014 at 12:50 PM

At least 80% of the comments on here, including yours, are by people who haven't got the slightest idea what global warming and climate change actually is. It isn't weather, as in: a cold winter disproves it, or a cool summer. Why don't you actually read something on the subject.

If it were that simple I could say that yes, I can prove global warming exists because CA, Texas, and several other states are now entering their third and fourth straight years of drought. But as it doesn't work like that, I'm not saying it.

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2 replies
The Macway Kate August 09 2014 at 5:55 PM

Well , kate, I'm a certified (and degreed) environmental geoscientist and hydrogeologist, working in industry, who looks at (un)filtered data all day long, month after month and year after year. I don't see any agw at all. Of course the 'filtered' and heavily massaged climate data does show a move in a certain direction...

towards GRANT money. And TENURE.

nuff said.

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DoubledgeD Kate August 09 2014 at 7:00 PM

Looks like you need to read up Kate and discover what most of us already know to be true. Read what The Macway said and take it to heart.

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wrascil August 09 2014 at 1:36 PM

all you have to have is WATER

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xpphil12 August 09 2014 at 1:49 PM

Al Gore is so depressed.He has probably had to seek mental health therapy.Probably thousands of global warmers, aka "warmers" are suffering depression.

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1 reply
ImportantFacts xpphil12 August 09 2014 at 8:26 PM

AKA DemLibs (AKA baby killers)

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dan_crabtree August 09 2014 at 1:19 PM

The price for a record harvest is a record winter with bitter extreme cold temps...watch and leran...watch and learn..

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The Wise One August 09 2014 at 12:52 PM

Finally some GREAT and promising news in this, the mostly FAILED and DISMAL era of Barack Obama and the rest of these hopeless, hapless and helpless DEMOCRATS. Now look for these leftist, know it all DEMOCRATS and Oblamer himself to try and claim credit for this bounty on the backs of Mother Nature and our hard working, farming communities. This wretch Obama is the worst thing to hit America since vomit!

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Kate August 09 2014 at 12:45 PM

I'm glad someone is having a good year; out here in CA we're sure not.

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rollopaloozo August 09 2014 at 1:28 PM

Overheard " Boo Hoo(crying) We're all gonna die like thirsty dried up rats in a desert " Calm down Lefty" Slap Slap ".Thanks Rocco I needed those slaps I was beginning to panic."

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