Dry Weather, Low Prices Hurt Farmers
Shelby County farmer Terry Wyatt planted corn this season for the first time in seven years. It suffered after almost six weeks of no rain this summer. Wyatt said he hoped to harvest 70 bushels per acre, but in a good year, he would harvest nearly double that amount.
In a good year, Shelby County farmer Terry Wyatt expects to harvest around 140 bushels an acre on non-irrigated corn fields. After a dry summer that brought only 4 inches of rain in June and July, Wyatt would be happy with 70 bushels per acre this year.
“We had rain early on, and the corn looked great,” said Wyatt, who planted corn this season for the first time in seven years. “Then, it stopped raining. Once we started harvesting, we hit spots with good-sized ears of corn, but for the most part, they were small and undersized.”
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Cleburne, DeKalb, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Madison, Marshall, Shelby and St. Clair counties are in an extreme drought. Exceptional drought, the driest conditions, has been recorded in Jackson and DeKalb counties.
"My soybeans should have been at least waist high in September, but they're barely above ankle height," said Jackson County Farmers Federation President Phillip Thompson. "They just didn't grow because it was too dry."
Thompson, who raises soybeans, corn and hay, said he had no significant rain from April to August, and he expects yields to be drastically lower than normal.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System specialists said they expect lower-than-normal yields for corn and average yields for soybeans and cotton across the state. Alabama Peanut Producers Association Director Caleb Bristow predicted slightly above average peanut yields in Alabama – about 3,500 pounds per acre.
Due to low commodity prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service forecasts 2016 net cash farm income at $94.1 billion, down 13.3 percent from 2015. Net farm income is predicted to drop 11.5 percent to $71.5 billion, which would be the lowest in seven years.