DES MOINES, Iowa – This year’s corn crop has soared to a new national record, breaking expectations in many states that received too much rain early on and a summer dry spell that brought back drought concerns.
In its first crop supply and demand report since the partial government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it expects 13.99 billion bushels of corn, more than the September forecast of 13.8 billion bushels. The previous record was 13.1 billion in 2009.
Some observers thought there would be a subpar harvest in the Midwest, including Iowa and Nebraska. Heavy rains delayed spring planting by several weeks, causing some farmers to give up planting the wettest fields. Then, drought conditions returned in the summer months.
“Better than expected” are the three most popular words in Iowa right now, said Chad Hart, an agriculture economist at Iowa State University.
“When they started to drive the combine in the field they thought, ‘Oh this probably isn’t good,’ but by the time they got down that first row they were saying those magic three words,” he said.
Exceptional harvests were found around the country, thanks to adequate rain and cooler temperatures at the time corn pollinated. At least 18 states will set records for the amount of corn produced per acre: Among them are Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.
“I was pleasantly surprised at both the corn and beans,” said Jerry Main, 74, who farms about 500 acres in southeast Iowa near Fairfield.
A 65-acre field he planted several weeks late in mid-June is yielding about a half a crop, he said. The hot summer further stressed his crops.
“We would have had a bumper crop if we’d just had another inch or two of rain in August,” he said.
Iowa barely maintained its status as the nation’s top corn producer with an estimated 2.2 billion bushels. Illinois was second at 2.1 billion bushels, Nebraska third (1.6 billion bushels) and Minnesota fourth (1.3 billion).
But with great abundance comes lower corn prices.
A year ago, corn peaked at more than $8 a bushel as supplies dwindled in the drought. On Friday morning, corn fell to $4.17 a bushel before the report, the lowest price since 2010. It rebounded to $4.25 later in the day.