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US corn harvest above expectations due to weather

October 11, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Harvest is in full swing across the U.S., and farmers in many states are surprised at the abundance of corn they’re getting from their fields.

The best crops are in areas that received adequate rain combined with cooler temperatures at the time corn pollinated, a welcome sight after last year’s dismal harvest due to the drought withering corn and soybean fields and burning up pastures. Record harvests are likely this year in many states, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Ohio.

All that corn will help refill bins that had been emptied after last year’s drought-reduced harvest of 10.7 billion bushels, the lowest since 2006, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist with Iowa State University. (1 bushel of corn=25.4 kilograms, or 56 pounds).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated the 2013 corn harvest at 13.8 billion bushels, beating the 2009 record of 13.1 billion bushels. Updated harvest estimates were to be released Friday, but the partial federal government shutdown has caused the USDA to suspend reports.

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.

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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Follow David Pitt at http://twitter.com/davepitt

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