Alabama farmers are grateful for what many believe will be a good harvest this year, but some may spend their Thanksgiving holidays still gathering those crops.
“We’re about a month behind where we were last year with our harvest,” said Marshall County Farmers Federation President Rickey Cornutt, whose crops were late maturing following excess rainfall earlier this year. “It’ll probably be the end of November before we’re finished.”
The rain received in 2013 is a stark contrast to 2012, when most of Alabama experienced severe drought.
“Our yields weren’t nearly as good last year as they are this year,” Cornutt said. “Corn is excellent now — probably the best we’ve ever done. We had one field that did a little more than 200 bushels an acre. On Sand Mountain, we’ve always thought 100 bushels an acre was good corn, so this year we’re just thrilled.”
With higher corn yields, farmers concerns turned to the corn market. Cornutt said he sold corn for $4.35 a bushel this year, compared to $8.16 last year.
“The market has really gone down this year,” Cornutt said. “The yield should make up for it — we’re taking half the price but making twice the amount of corn. We’re hoping it will equal out.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts Alabama will set a record for corn yield. Reports show oat production in the state reached a record high as well. Farmers say they are optimistic about soybean and cotton, too, but an early frost could change that outlook.
“Soybeans are late, but they look good,” said Cherokee County Farmers Federation Board Member Nick McMichen. “We’re hoping we can get 40 to 50 bushels an acre on soybeans. Our cotton may be susceptible to frost. I think we’ll be OK, but an early frost could cause damage.”
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, average first frost dates range from Nov. 4 in north Alabama to Nov. 29 along the coast.
Dale County farmer Chris Thompson said he plans to work into December to finish harvesting cotton.
“A late wheat harvest tremendously delayed harvest in fields where we planted cotton behind wheat,” Thompson said. “Earlier planted cotton looks like it will give promising yields. We should have an average crop as long as we don’t have a frost until the end of October or the beginning of November.”
While most crops fared better this season than last, the opposite is true for peanuts. The 2012 harvest was a record year for Alabama peanuts, however farmers are expecting lower yields for 2013.
“We have around a 5 percent loss in low-lying areas where standing water hurt our peanuts,” said Thompson, who planted 1,300 acres of peanuts. “It’s going to be a mixed bag this year. From what I’ve seen traveling across the peanut belt, yields are going to vary tremendously. We’re not going to come anywhere close to the yields we’ve seen the last two years.”
Thompson, who is Dale County Farmers Federation first vice president, said this year’s harvest is a blessing, even with a smaller peanut crop.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve been able to work this crop, keep it fertilized and keep it clean,” he said. “Our crops are in pretty good shape.”
Farmers echo Thompson’s sentiment across the state. Madison County Farmers Federation Board Member Brandon Moore said if given the choice between too much rain or too little, he would pick too much.
“Our family has had a front-row seat to see how God decides to feed and clothe this planet for four generations, and the only thing that is consistent is that no two growing seasons are ever the same,” Moore said. “We farm at nature’s pace. Farming is exciting because it’s a living, breathing industry.”
Moore said he has recorded a 60-percent increase in corn yields over last year, thanks to sufficient rainfall.
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