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Published: Tuesday, 11/12/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

AGRICULTURE

Ohio’s role key in likely record corn harvest

Area farmers say yields range widely

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The 2013 U.S. corn harvest is expected to be the largest haul on record with Ohio playing a big role. However, northwestern Ohio farmers say yields range significantly across the area because of the strong summer storms that dumped inches of rain on some fields.

“It made a world of difference in yields,” Woodville farmer Brad Reif said Tuesday. “Yields have been all over the place. I’ve seen 120 [bushels per acre] to 240 [bushels per acre] all because of that rain.”

Mike Libben, a farmer in Oak Harbor, said one’s success depended much on how well fields drained.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag, considering the weather we had,” Mr. Libben said. “It was very wet in Ottawa County, especially eastern Ottawa County.”

Even with the spotty rain, 2013 was a more normal year — as much as there is such a thing in farming — than 2012, which was one of the drier years on record across the United States.

The planting got under way well, the temperatures weren’t too hot, and rain was ample.

All that means a bigger harvest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month it anticipated a total U.S. corn harvest of 13.99 billion bushels. If that’s accurate, it would represent a 30 percent increase over what farmers produced in last year’s drought-ravaged growing season and be a record for U.S. corn production.

Though some farmers had fields that were drowned out, when all is said and done this year figures to be a good one for the region, said Alan Sundermeier, the Ohio State University agricultural extension agent for Wood County.

“It’s not super bin-busting everywhere. There’s some pockets down to average, but overall it’s probably above average,” he said.

USDA forecasts Ohio’s corn crop as the nation’s seventh largest, at 632 million bushels. That would be a 41 percent increase over the 449 million bushels produced last year in Ohio. The department said Ohio fields will likely produce on average 174 bushels per acre, compared to an average of 123 bushels per acre last year.

The USDA said Michigan farmers are likely to produce about 365 million bushels, up from 318 million last year.

Laws of supply and demand being what they are, the more corn available, the less farmers are paid. That’s especially true when looking back to last year when corn touched $8 a bushel during the drought. On Tuesday, corn fell to $4.32 a bushel.

Barry Ward, an agricultural economist at Ohio State University, said when farmers choose to market their corn is going to make a big difference in their profit margin this year. Some of those who chose to market most of their crop in the summer or later are likely to see tight margins or even losses, he said.

“Some of that yield may offset it. It’s going to be a mixed bag, I think, as far as what we’re seeing in Ohio,” Mr. Ward said. “With the better yields, though, I would suspect we’re going to see profitability with most people, even with these lower prices.”

Most farmers are well into their harvest. The USDA said 77 percent of Ohio’s corn crop had been harvested as of Sunday.

“Normally a farmer’s goal is to be done by Thanksgiving. Some years that’s a little more practical than others,” said Connie Ward, the Ohio Farm Bureau’s north regional supervisor.

Ms. Ward said the pace of this harvest seems to be in line with averages.

The USDA said soybean production is forecast at 3.26 billion bushels, a 7 percent increase from last year.

Earlier this year, many farmers were worried about their soybean crops because of the wet conditions. Standing water can kill soybean plants and help foster the spread of harmful diseases.

And while yields may be a bit below average this year for soybeans, several farmers and agricultural observers said Tuesday that the local soybeans did better than expected.

“Everybody was surprised with bean yields,” Mr. Libben said.

The USDA is projecting yields of 49 bushels per acre for soybeans this year in Ohio, up from 45 bushels per acre last year.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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