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McClatchy-Tribune  08/17/2014 6:49 AM ET
Too much of a good thing [The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind. :: ]

Aug. 17--ANDERSON -- Waves of green stretch across the countryside where farmers have planted acres upon acres of soybeans and corn.

Early predictions indicate this harvest will be one for the record books, but farmers are casting a cautious eye to the skies and preparing for the worst.

"Farmers have learned long ago not to count anything until it can be turned into cash," said David Howell of Middletown.

Per acre, the average yields and production for both corn and soybeans are up across the nation, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Good news for farmers -- or is it?

An estimated 1.04 billion bushels of corn is expected to hit the markets this year if both the growing and harvesting conditions continue to be favorable in Indiana. That figure surpasses the 1.03 billion record set in 2013.

While not the largest yield for the state, soybeans are also expected to reach 279.9 million bushels this year up from the 264.7 million bushels harvested last year. A record 3.82 billion bushels is estimated for this year's national soybean harvest overshadowing last year's 3.29 billion bushels.

Howell, who has farmed the family's Howell Farms for 43 years, said crops look promising. His operation includes Madison and Delaware counties.

"We still need some more rain," he said. "Soybeans depend on the August rains."

Spotty showers created isolated dry spots in the fields and others were drowned out, but overall Madison County fared well, Howell said.

Barring an early frost or wet conditions, this year looks like another bumper crop.

Wayne Ousley, 71, of Elwood, has farmed Madison County land for more than four decades. He said crop yields have increased in the last 10 years through better hybrids and more efficient farming.

But farming is not easy.

"Fertilizer costs have gone up considerably and the only way to offset that is to have a bigger yield," Ousley said. "And you hope to have a high yield to get a good price."

"It is still a challenge to run a farming operation,"

About 72 percent of Indiana's corn is rated good to excellent which is only slightly below the national average of 74 percent, said Kathleen Sprouse, agriculture and natural resources educator for Madison County Purdue Extension

About 84 million soybean acres in the state are rated 76 percent good to average compared to a 70 percent national average, she said. Mild weather conditions combined with high yields is also creating a surplus, driving crop prices down.

This could trigger government payouts, Sprouse said.

"We are predicting corn might be around $3.50 a bushel and farmers are used to the higher range of $7 a bushel," she said.

Corn prices have not dropped below $4 a bushel since 2010.

Crop insurance and a new government program called an Agricultural Risk Coverage-County Option, or ARC-CO may help farmers facing financial hardship from the plummeting crop prices, Sprouse said.

"There are going to be big changes ahead," she said. "In planning for the future it looks like this will become more of a standard. We do not expect prices to go back to $8 a bushel."

"This winter and fall it is going to be important for farmers to reevaluate their business plans."

Howell said with a record harvest, inventories will build across the country and carryover is an opportunity for price run-ups. Cheap crop prices, however, are not always bad news as they can create an increase in livestock production, he said.

And high prices for corn and soybeans can "kill a market."

"It's the system we operate under," he said. "It will shake out, but it will take a couple of years."

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

Indiana crops --Indiana ranks second in the nation for popcorn production -- producing 269 million pounds each year. --Indiana ranks fourth in the nation for soybean production. --Indiana farmers produce nearly 10 percent of all soybeans grown in the U.S. --Indiana ranks fifth in the nation for corn production. --Most of Indiana's corn is used to feed pigs, cows and chickens. --There are 40,000 farmers growing soybeans on 5.4 million acres in the state. --Farmers today grow five times more corn than they did in the 1930s and on 20 percent less land. --In the 1930s, a farmer could harvest an average of 100 bushels of corn by hand in a nine-hour day. Today's combines can harvest 900 bushels of corn per hour -- or 100 bushels in less than seven minutes. --The average person consumes about 7 gallons of soybean oil every year. --One acre of soybeans can produce more than 82,000 crayons. Sources:,, and


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