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Yields great, but price dampens good news

Staff writer

As Alan Vogel drove his green combine through the ripened fields of corn he couldn’t help but smile.

“I could have this every year,” he said as fat kernels fell into a waiting truck.

He has only been harvesting this 60 acres near US-56 for about five years, but he and many of the county’s farmers were having an exceptional harvest.

“This would be the best corn I have had on this,” he said.

Test weights on his upland corn have been 58 or 59 and bottomland 60 or 61.

Upland yields have been coming in at 120 to 140 and bottomland corn at 140 to 160 bushels per acre.

“It’s decent, better on the bottom ground,” he said over the whine of the combine’s engine. “It got dry in the latter parts. In August, there was some drought stress, but for the most part, I think it is going to be above average.”

John Ottensmeier, manager of Marion Cooperative Grain and Supply was seeing almost the same numbers at the elevator.

Tests weights have been good at 58 or 60 pounds and yields above average at 100 to 180 bushels per acre.

“Some said this is one of the best harvests they have ever had,” he said.

Overall, the state’s corn crop was rated 12% poor, 28% fair, 42% good, and 13% excellent, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The agency downgraded an earlier forecast for the state of a record 822 million bushels down to 728 million, but predicted yields of 136 bushels per acre, up three bushels from last year.

Terry Vinduska, who represents the Kansas Corn Commission on the U.S. grains counsel, said exceptional summer rains in Marion County helped the corn at the right time.

U.S. Climate reports average rainfall of 3.9 and 4.12 inches during the months of July and August.

“I think Kansas will almost surely break the record for corn across the state,” he said. “I am not the only one with exceptionally good yields. Everyone I know is having the same thing.”

Cash flow

Continued low prices put a damper on what otherwise might have been good news in a year desperately in need of it.

As of press time, the cash price of corn was about $3.31, which is hardly great Vinduska said.

“We have record yields, but we also have record expenses,” he said. “So it’s all about the net income. We have to have high yields to compensate for the low commodity price and high input costs.”

Dan O’Brien, a professor of agricultural economics with K-State research and extension, said prices are typically weak around harvest, but might rebound later.

However, he acknowledged some farmers may have bills to pay that don’t include fees to store grain until markets improve.

“The blessings of great bushels can overwhelm a grain handling system,” he said. “Yields can overwhelm storage systems. But the underlying positive is that after harvest we can see an uptick after supplies quit coming out of the fields.”

The outlook on prices is much better than it has been in the past, he said.

Vogel said corn prices have stayed at about the same for several years.

“That’s not a good price, but it’s been worse,” he said.

Vinduska said many farmers have contracted to sell their grain early, but each farmer has their own cash flow needs.

“If what they need is to pay today’s bills, they will sell the cash grain at a lower price,” he said. “What’s right for one is not right for the next — everyone makes their own decisions for when to sell.”

Vogel had some of his grain sold under contract this spring.

He hopes prices don’t fall and the county gets rain and decent crops the rest of the year.

“I think consistency is what I am hoping for,” he said, looking over fields still waiting to be harvested.

Last modified Oct. 1, 2020

 

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