As growers gear up for this year's corn harvest, Hurricane Irene was the latest in a number of weather-related challenges that have affected acreage, yield and corn condition across the nation's corn fields. 2011 has definitely been a year to test the resilience of the American farmer, the National Corn Growers Association reports.
"We had delayed planting and flooding in the upper Midwest, we lost acreage to floods along the Mississippi River and we saw our crops fade in scorching drought in Texas well before the hurricane came along," said NCGA First Vice President Garry Niemeyer of Illinois. "Last week at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur I heard from many of my peers across the Corn Belt about what's going on in their fields and their expectations come harvest, and we saw first-hand some of the problems of a very hot year in important areas of the Corn Belt. Our heart goes out to those who lost all or some of their crops this year."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported today that 52 percent of the corn crop in the top 18 states is rated good or excellent, compared to 69 percent at this time last year. While there are some bright spots, some states have suffered. In Texas, only 10 percent of the crop is rated good or excellent, with 68 percent rated poor or very poor.
In spite of this, Niemeyer said, the global grain marketplace has the ability to ensure all needs are met. Concerns about corn supply are only part of the reason why corn prices and, more broadly, commodity futures overall are high.
"In addition to market fundamentals, we're continuing to see the impact of using the commodity markets as an investment vehicle. This is driving up commodity markets and leading to higher energy prices," Niemeyer said. "Just as our customers are paying more for the corn we grow, we are paying higher prices for land and all of our inputs, such as fuel, nutrients and crop protection."
Next Monday, Sept. 12, the USDA will provide its monthly estimate of agricultural supply and demand, and time will tell if we ultimately see a 2011 corn crop now estimated at nearly 13 billion bushels, the third largest ever, Niemeyer noted. What ultimately happens to the 2011 crop also shows the need for a sound farm policy, which is why the discussions about the 2012 farm bill are so very important right now.
"This is a year that drives home the need for crop insurance and risk management tools necessary for our country to provide critical assistance to farmers when they face crop losses due to adverse weather conditions, crop disease or volatile markets," Niemeyer said. "We're looking forward to a farm bill that delivers aid to farmers when they need it in a way that is faster, simpler and smarter."