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Farmers anticipate record-setting harvest while prices hit record lows

By Carson Gerber • Sep 19, 2018 at 8:00 AM

There’s good news and bad news about this year’s upcoming harvest.

The good news is area farmers are anticipating a bumper soybean and corn crop that could set records. The bad news is corn prices are down, and soybean prices are even worse due to President Donald Trump’s ongoing tariff war.

Miami County Extension Educator Corey Roser said Mother Nature gave farmers a nearly perfect growing season this year, including a not-too-hot summer with plenty of rain that was evenly spread out.

“We didn’t get the normal Sahara-like conditions that Indiana is sometimes plagued with to slow down the process,” he said. “And it wasn’t a monsoon season like we had last year. The rain was spread across the whole growing period.”

Brad Winger, who farms corn and soybeans with his family in eastern Howard County and parts of Miami County, said the year started out well with good soil conditions that made for a smooth planting season.

And it just got better from there.

“We had a lot of heat and rain this summer,” Winger said. “August rain always makes for good soybeans, and we’ve had a lot of rain in August. We’re anxious to get into the fields and see how good a year it really will be.”

Howard County and the surrounding area isn’t the only place expecting a stellar harvest.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. farmers are expected to produce a record-high soybean crop this year, with fields projected to produce 4.6 billion bushels. That’s up 7 percent from 2017.

Soybean yields are expected to average 51.6 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from last year, according to the USDA. Record soybean yields are expected in Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Corn growers, on the other hand, are expected to decrease their production slightly from last year, and are forecast at 14.6 billion bushels.

Winger said it would all be worth celebrating if crop prices weren’t so terrible.

“Our prices are in the toilet, and it’s the tariffs that have killed our soybean prices,” he said.

Prices have plummeted since June following the Trump administration’s back-and-forth trade war with China, which slapped a 25-percent import tariff on U.S. soybeans in July.

Earlier this month, the USDA announced initial aid for farmers consisting of about $4.7 billion in payments to producers of seven agricultural commodities, including soybeans and corn, to offset tumbling prices.

But, Winger said, those payouts won’t do much good. He said he’s set to lose around $2.50 on every bushel of soybeans. The bailout money will only make up about 80-cents of that loss, he said.

“I was sort of all for Mr. Trump at first, but it’s time for him to get these (trade deals) settled,” he said. “It’s killing agriculture. They’re trying to put a Band-Aid on it, but it’s just that. It’s not nearly going to make up for what we lost.”

Winger said to combat that loss, he plans to only sell enough of the harvest this year to keep the operation in the black, and store the rest in the hope of selling it next year for a better price.

“We still have to pay our bills, so we’ll have to cash some of it in,” he said.

Extension Educator Roser said this year’s harvest is a little ironic, considering one of the best anticipated harvests is coming at the worst possible time. But mostly, he said, it’s just disappointing.

“I’m excited it’s going to be a good year, but it’s a shame we can’t get that product out there and get good money for it that’s going into farmers’ pockets,” he said.

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©2018 the Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Ind.)

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