It looks like it’s turning out to be a pretty average year for corn, soybeans and grain sorghum production in Kansas – and that’s good.
For the past two years, much of Kansas was afflicted by a crippling drought. This summer started out dry, but a month of heavy rain in July and August did a lot to ease the drought in some parts of Kansas, although the soil statewide remains fairly dry.
Farmers have been harvesting corn for at least two weeks, and so far the crop looks decent but not great.
The USDA rated the corn harvest at 29 percent poor or very poor, 32 percent fair and 39 percent good or excellent.
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“Corn is up and down, with some doing well and some mediocre,” said Zach Simon, extension agent in Sedgwick County.
The USDA projected the Kansas corn crop, as of Sept. 1, at 525 million bushels, up 38 percent over last year, with a yield forecast at 125 bushels per acre, up from 96 bushels per acre last year. That’s a little above average.
Ryan Carmichael, location supervisor at Mount Hope Co-op, said it’s still too early to get an actual read on where corn yields will end up.
But, he said, he’s not seeing a lot of aflatoxin, which means the corn isn’t drought-stressed.
The bulk of the soybean and grain sorghum harvests is weeks away, although a few farmers in the southern part of the state have started to bring in their harvest.
The USDA forecasts Kansas soybean production at 133 million bushels, up 58 percent from last year, with the yield forecast at 36 bushels per acre, up from 22 bushels per acre last year.
The agency forecast the Kansas sorghum for grain crop at 195 million bushels, more than double last year’s production, with yields at 75 bushels per acre, up from 39 bushels last year.
Cotton production is forecast at 39,000 bales, down 44 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 720 pounds per acre, up from 622 pounds per acre in 2012, but the number of acres expected to be harvested – 26,000 – is less than half of last year’s total.
The other big piece of the income equation for farmers is the price of their crops.
The price on all crops, but especially corn, has fallen dramatically over the past year as growing conditions across the country have improved. The USDA is calling for a record corn harvest of 13.843 billion bushels nationwide this year.
Corn prices hovered around $7 a bushel when farmers planted in late spring. Now they are below $5 per bushel. The USDA is projecting the price of new crop corn at $4.40 to $5.20 per bushel.
For soybeans, the picture is more positive. Stronger world demand will support prices, said Tom Leffler of Leffler Commodities. The USDA is forecasting prices between $11.50 and $13.50.
Many farmers have already sold their crops, taking advantage of high prices earlier. But, said Leffler, farmers are facing some difficulty in deciding when to sell.
“Tough things happened this year,” he said. “We went through another dry spell, and that made it difficult for them to forward price their grain when they didn’t know if they were going to raise a crop, so they may have missed out on higher prices.”
He expects many farmers still owning their crops to store them and wait for prices to rise.
For those who missed out on the high prices, he had some advice: Prices aren’t terrible, so they should sell if they need the cash. If they don’t need the cash, hang on to the crop and hope supplies will tighten, relative to demand, and that prices will head back up.
“We’ve been awfully tight on supplies, and we were bound to get better weather and build those supplies back up,” Leffler said.