Low yields, low prices might hurt local corn farmers

Friday, September 6, 2013 | 8:20 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A combination of low crop yields and low prices for corn could mean a rough year for Missouri farmers.

A wet spring coupled with a dry July and August is what Bill Wiebold, an MU Extension crop specialist and MU agronomy professor, calls "the worst-case scenario" for farmers because it might lead to those low yields. Spring rains led to weakened root systems among corn plants, which meant the plants were less able to stand up to the dry summer months.

In its August 2013 monthly crop production report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects Missouri farmers to yield 130 bushels per acre this year. That number is higher than last year, when corn yields were only 75 bushels per acre. Wiebold said the average yearly corn yield is about 145 bushels per acre.

With the expected yield for 2013 being higher, corn prices might be lower than last year, but still higher than average. The difference between this year and last year, which was also struck by drought, is a matter of economics and location, Wiebold said. Because last year's drought was widespread, prices of corn rose in response to low yields. These higher prices meant farmers ended the year well despite lower yields.Because of the drought in the area this year, local farmers' yields may not be as good as last year's.

"What's worst is when the drought is localized and prices stay low," Wiebold said.

That might be the case this year because corn giants such as Illinois and Indiana did not experience the fluctuating weather to the extreme that middle and northern Missouri did. Wiebold said this means prices might not shift like they did last year, which could signal problems for local farmers.

However, many farmers have insurance policies, which can serve as a cushion against years like this one, Wiebold said.

"This, of course, depends on their policy, but it helps protect them in most cases," he said.

Wiebold said consumers would likely feel only minimal affects. 

"Feed prices may go up, which affects meat, dairy and egg prices for consumers, but that would take a little while to go into effect," Wiebold said.

This is the fourth year in a row yields have been lower than average, Wiebold said. 

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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