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Record Crop Prices May Not Translate to Record Profits

By Kevin Fox

"The next two or three weeks are critical to the crops in Clark County" stated Bill Bonine Farm Lender at the Farm Service Agency in Clark County. "The spring began cold and that’s why we have low interest loans available for those who lost crops in April because of the cold weather. Primarily what we are talking about being damaged was the hay crop. This frost cut back on hay and the first cut on alfalfa. I would estimate that production was cut back by a ½ to a 1/3. Currently the second cutting of alfalfa is being done right now and shows good sign. And because of the dry conditions people can mow their CRP for hay if they call this office and set up a plan. If they choose to do that, then they will have to pay back a portion of their CRP payment."
Bonine stated that among the surprises thus far this year was the wheat crop. It seemed to survive the freeze and the Army worm which hit many of the fields. So while most believed early that production would be low, it actually averaged 50-90 bushels an acre and brought anywhere from $4.25 to $4.75 a bushel. It was also a good year for straw as producers are getting anywhere from 1500 to 2000 pounds of straw per acre.
Currently the beans are looking quite good as they begin to fill in the rows as well as flowering. If there is a dark cloud over beans, then it surrounds the beans that were planted late, which the experts report just seemed to be sitting there and not showing any or little signs of growth. Bonine stated, "We are at a pivotal moment for crops including beans. Some areas are getting moisture and others are not. Down in the bottoms producers are getting moisture while up on the hills, it’s extremely dry. But overall things look very good and I would say that they actually look better than they did last year. We are however
See CROPS, Page 18
beginning to see small grasshoppers appearing in the beans. It really is too early to make the call for those who double cropped a field and put beans in after they cut their wheat. Those beans are just now beginning to come up."
For producers the other good news is that bean prices are historic highs such as $7.66 on July 18th at the time this story was written, with some farmers with beans contracted at $8.00.
Corn in Clark County is 50% silked. What pulls that number down is some late planted corn that has not even begun forming and ear year. Corn planted in the marginal soils are beginning to show signs of distress with lower leaves beginning to turn brown because of lack moisture. And just as was the case for the beans, this is an all important time for corn as yield numbers will begin to take a hit within the next two or three weeks unless the county gets rain. Bonine stated that corn over all looks great and it too is at all time highs. At the time of this article it was $3.02 with many producers contracting corn at $4.00. The ethanol industry is what is in part the reason for the raise in corn prices. Most experts however feel that there will be a correction as it is very hard to feed livestock and make any profit when feeding $4.00 corn.
The lack of any significant moisture is also beginning to take its toll on pastures as well as some are turning brown and becoming very sparse. This is also driving the price of hay as well as grass hay. A 1700-pound bale is bringing $40.00.
While Bill Bonine is very optimistic about the crops this year and right now most fields are doing good or better, it’s already been a tough year when you consider that prices are not the only thing associated with farming at record highs.  Fertilizer was also at record highs and those who did not have their fertilizer locked in really paid. The same is true for diesel fuel, as it was at record highs a well.