Records yields in fields, but profits may be hard to come by

Across the vibrant 3,010,400 acres of farmland in Missouri, it is not hard to tell this year will be a record harvest.

The United States Department of Agriculture projects corn to produce a national average of 175 bushels per acre and soybeans to yield 58 bushels an acre. This would be an increase from the 2015 averages of 167.5 bushels for corn and 47.2 bushels of soybeans per acre. Since 1960, corn and soybean production per acre has almost tripled in the U.S. Farmers have seen an average annual production increase of 2.4 bushels per acre in corn alone since then.

One possible reason for this increase could be the amount of rainfall the Midwest has received over the summer, in particular the month of July. According to the National Weather Service, the state of Missouri received an average of 6.8 inches of rain between July 4 and July 30, making this past July the eighth wettest in Missouri history going back to 1895.

While the rain played a major factor in this year’s field production, it is not the only reason for the expected record yields.

“A big reason that production is so much better now than it has been in the past has a lot to do with improved seed genetics,” said Josh Johnson, a local Missouri farmer from Montgomery County. “That, along with today’s fungicides and insecticides.”

The combination of all of these factors has led to one of the best crop yields in recent history. When asked about how his soybean crop was shaping up in particular, Johnson said he’s expecting a soybean yield around 60 bushels mainly due to the beans having a mostly stress free life.

As the crop yields of this harvest are looking to set new records, so will the prices — but in the opposite direction. The current price for corn per bushel is $3.29 and is projected by the USDA to drop as low as $3.10 before the year closes. This would mark the lowest prices since November 2006.

“Grain prices are very difficult to predict,” said Patrick Westhoff, the director of the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute for the University of Missouri. “When considering other countries’ economies such as China’s, which is on the rise, the market becomes more complicated. One question we have to ask is, what is the consumer’s income and how has does that affect the price of grain.”

Another variable is the ethanol market and how much of the yield will be refined into fuel. The issue of grain pricing from the outside appears to be a simple matter of supply and demand, but taking a closer look, it quickly becomes more complex. Even though this year’s yield is expected to break records, the average farmer will only break even when comparing the cost to plant and the cost to manage their fields to the amount of profit they are set to make.

Will Robinson

About the Author Will Robinson

My name is Will Robinson, and I am a science and agricultural journalism major at the University of Missouri. The little patch of heaven that I call home sits out side the small town of Wellsville, Missouri. That’s where I was privileged to grow up on my family’s third-generation swine operation. Over the past summer I had the opportunity to work at Country 96, a radio station based out of Mexico, Missouri. On the weekends, I worked as a radio personality dubbed “The Kid.” As I progress through college, I hope to find an internship at an agricultural based radio corporation, such as the Brownfield radio network so I can further pursue broadcasting as a career. I am very excited to be writing for CAFNR Corner Post this semester.