By Keith Robinson, Purdue University
Delayed planting of crops in Indiana in the spring because of rain followed by a prolonged dry spell this summer is likely to result in what farmers and economists already expected: Indiana farmers won't produce as much corn and soybeans as they had hoped for the second consecutive year.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture crop production report released Thursday (Aug. 11) projects Indiana farmers to produce 855 million bushels of corn on yields of 150 bushels per acre, down from 898 million bushels on 157 bushels per acre last year. It projects soybean production at 227.4 million bushels on yields of 43 bushels per acre, a decrease from 258.5 million and 48.5 last year.
Although no one was expecting bin-buster crops this year - or anything close to it - Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt said the projections were even lower than expected. The report, he said, "tells us we didn’t get what we hoped for this year."
Hurt was among panelists who analyzed the much-anticipated report at the Indiana State Fair.
The August report is the USDA's first forecast of yields and production based on conditions as of Aug. 1. Final results, however, can vary depending on weather and other conditions before the fall harvest. Last year at this time, the USDA projected that Indiana farmers would produce 1 billion bushels of corn for the first time. But drought in the summer and fall cut production to 898 million bushels, below 2009’s record 933 million bushels.
If the USDA projections hold true, Indiana's corn crop would be the smallest since 2006, and its soybean production the lowest since 2007.
Nationally, the USDA forecasts corn production at 12.9 billion bushels, up 4% from 2010. It would be the third largest production total on record. Soybeans, however, are projected at 3.06 billion bushels, down 8% from last year.
Hurt said the expected production would not be enough to bring down commodity prices and, ultimately, food prices.
With corn and soybean inventories already low, Hurt said, it will take at least another year to rebuild supplies. Hurt said the nation will have a 24-day inventory of corn and 22-day supply of soybeans at the end of August. Both should be at levels of 45-60 days.
"We just can’t seem to get caught up," he said. "And I assume we will be saying the same thing again next year."
The crop production report is important because it is an early look at what the industry will need to do to recover the following year to help meet growing worldwide demand for food, feed for livestock and fuel in the form of ethanol.
"It sets the stage as to what we need to plan for next year," said panelist Joe Kelsay, director of the state Department of Agriculture.
Indiana farmers began the planting season at a slow pace because of almost daily rain in April and much of May. They had planted only 2% of the state’s corn crop by May 1, when they normally have 31% of it in the ground.
That was followed by intense heat and dryness in July, inhibiting development of the crop. By Aug. 1, only 18% of the corn crop was rated good to excellent, compared with 63% last year.
"Each year, some states have a bad year," said panelist Greg Preston, director of the Indiana office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. "That’s us this year."
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