Alabama farmers are cranking up combines with an optimistic attitude despite falling commodity prices. In its September Crop Production report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicted a record average corn yield of 149 bushels per acre for the state.
Farmer Jeremy Wilson harvested half of his 2,000 acre corn crop by mid-September and was seeing even higher yields of 200 bushels an acre on dryland corn.
“Our irrigated corn is doing even better, around 225 or 250 bushels an acre,” said Wilson, who farms in Talladega and Elmore counties. “We did have to irrigate a lot. One of our fields near Lincoln went seven weeks without rain. For people around here who planted late and didn’t irrigate, the corn looks pretty terrible.”
Wilson’s high corn yields are a stark contrast to current commodity prices. In the past two months, corn, soybeans and cotton have all traded at their lowest points in more than four years.
“We didn’t book anything early,” Wilson said. “We’d like to get more for our corn, but we can’t complain when we’re getting the yields we’re getting.”
Experts contribute the price drops to expected record corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Lower cotton prices can be attributed to an increased domestic supply from better growing conditions in Texas and decreased demand from China.
The USDA report also predicted a total soybean harvest of 20.5 million bushels for Alabama, up 12 percent from 2013. However, an overall increase was expected as farmers in the state planted 65,000 more acres of soybeans this year.
Wilson said dry weather made his early soybeans poor, with a yield of 16 bushels on the first 150 acres harvested. The second 150 acres fared better at 35 bushels an acre, he said.
Morgan County Young Farmers Chairman Jason Fields expects to start harvesting soybeans around the first week of October.
“We could’ve used a couple more rains, but overall I’m pleased with where the crop stands,” Fields said. “I don’t think our soybeans will be as good as last year, but last year was probably the best we’ve ever seen.”
Wilson sold about 50 percent of his crop on a forward contract, and he said those prices were better than where the market stood in mid-September. However, some of his millet crop was damaged by armyworms.
Lee County farmer Mitch Lazenby planted cotton, sesame and peanuts this year, and said his harvest is scheduled to start by October.
“Overall, things looks good, and we’re just hoping for good weather,” Lazenby said, adding that some of his cotton crop is typically booked early.
“Obviously the cotton price has dropped dramatically as the season has gone on,” he said. “We’re hopeful that, with the small amount we pre-sold, we might average high 70s (cents per pound) on our cotton.”
USDA reports predict Alabama’s cotton production at 625,000 bales, up 6 percent, while peanut harvest is expected to reach 516 million pounds for the state, a 5-percent increase over last year.
However, Alabama farmers also planted 25,000 acres more of peanuts. Many peanut fields have suffered this season with more than 50 percent rated poor or fair in a mid-September USDA report.