Missouri corn yields on pace to drop prices

Thursday, October 24, 2013 | 6:16 p.m. CDT; updated 6:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 25, 2013

COLUMBIA — Missouri farmers planted an estimated 3.45 million acres of land for corn this year, and if U.S. Department of Agriculture projections are correct, those acres will result in the state's highest corn yield in four years.

Missouri is forecast to produce an average of 130 bushels of corn per acre this year, the state's highest since 2009. National Agricultural Statistics Service data shows Missouri corn was averaging 125 bushels per acre, with 63 percent of the crop  harvested.

Scott Gerlt, a crops analyst at the MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, said Missouri fits the expected trend of a nationwide increase in production and yield that will bolster a decreasing corn reserve.

"At the national level, we've had drought for the past few years," Gerlt said. "We've had about three years in a row that were sub-par. We had sub-average yields for three years, which isn't very typical. Usually you don't see that in a row."

As a whole, Missouri didn't have a bad year with drought. The Department of Agriculture's 2013 corn yield report states planting was actually delayed in 2013 because of rain in May and June that was the most in that period since 2000.

The report also pointed out that rainfall decreased in the northern part of Missouri in July, but that corn yields in each district of the state will still increase.

Graphic by Joey Fening

Gerlt said farmers probably planted so much corn because it was selling for a high price at the time of planting. Now, he said the increased availability of corn will probably lead to "a large price drop" for corn buyers.

"If we do harvest the crops we've been talking about harvesting, we're talking about a lot," Gerlt said. "With a good yield, we would get back to more moderated prices. Consumers of corn will benefit from the lower price."

Missouri Corn Growers Association CEO Gary Marshall agreed that prices would go down and said he expects out-of-state corn sales to increase with the increased haul because he doesn't expect "dramatic increases in ethanol or livestock production."

Data from the Missouri Corn Growers shows the top three consumers of corn in the state are livestock and poultry farmers, ethanol producers and out-of-state buyers. Corn that is typically bought in grocery stores and used as an ingredient in food is sweet corn, which is harvested differently and categorized as a different crop from field corn.

Both Gerlt and Marshall said that if corn prices decrease, farmers in Missouri are likely to plant less corn next year and more of other crops.

If farmers plant fewer acres of corn next year, Marshall estimated they'd be likely to plant more wheat and soybeans. He also said some farmers in the warm southern part of Missouri known as the Bootheel region could plant more cotton and rice as well.

Marshall also cautioned that his estimates are mostly educated guesses. He said projections are more difficult to make this year because the government shutdown caused the cancellation of certain October crop reports from the Department of Agriculture.

"It's kind of unfortunate that we're in the dark with USDA numbers," Marshall said. "I think our crop's going to be better than the projections but I have no way of knowing. It's kind of an interesting time right now. It's a different set of circumstances."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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