The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

October 12, 2013

Corn harvest above expectations

(Continued)

In northern Alabama, Jeff Webster, 50, farms 1,700 acres with a cousin. Those fields are producing between 160 and 200 bushels per acre, a significant improvement over the average of 130 to 140 bushels.

“It’s an exceptional crop for most people,” said Webster, a farmer for 30 years. He attributes it to a combination of a cool summer and significantly more rainfall than average.

It’s a similar story for southern Illinois farmer Steven Niedbalski, 36, who works with his parents and a brother.

Last year, he cut down dying corn stalks to feed cattle because there was nothing to harvest; the best field delivered 40 bushels an acre. This year, he’s seeing 150 to 170 bushels an acre on his farm near Nashville, Ill. He chalks it up to new hybrids withstanding the dry weather better than expected and cooler weather during pollination helping fill the ears with kernels.

But in the nation’s leading corn-producing state, Iowa farmers are seeing more inconsistent results because of spring’s rain-delayed planting followed by a dry summer.

Wayne Humphries, who raises hogs and grows corn and soybeans on about 1,000 acres 145 miles southeast of Des Moines, said some fields are producing as much as 200 bushels an acre while others with soil types that couldn’t hold moisture are at half that.

“We’ve only had less than an inch of rain in the last two months. That wasn’t conducive to finishing our crop,” Humphries, of Columbus Junction, said.

Just 60 miles to the northeast, farmers on both sides of the Mississippi River around Davenport, Iowa, and Moline, Ill., are reporting eye-popping results — as many as 260 bushels an acre.

Corn prices are significantly lower than they were a year ago, when they reached more than $8 a bushel because of the drought. Corn has been trading in recent days at just under $4.50 a bushel, lower than for much of the summer. Prices have fallen as it became clear an abundant harvest was likely.

Hart said corn’s current price will maintain profitability for pork, chicken, and turkey producers who rely on corn for animal feed, thus keeping consumer meat prices stable. It also helps the ethanol industry, which largely uses corn to make the fuel additive.

More corn will likely be exported to Japan and Mexico, Hart said. China also has recently entered the U.S. corn market and is expected to further increase exports.

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