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August 12, 2003

Indiana crops making up ground as harvest nears, experts say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – After a slow start and trouble in the middle miles, Indiana farmers are gaining momentum in the race to fall harvest, said state agricultural and Purdue University commodities experts.

Hoosier farmers are projected to produce 792 million bushels of corn, up 25 percent from 2002. Corn yields are expected to average 144 bushels per acre, up 23 bushels per acre from one year ago. State soybean production is projected at 227.9 million bushels, off 3.4 percent from 2002. Average soybean yields are rising, however, at 43 bushels per acre – up 2 bushels an acre from last year.

While not records, the production estimates are better than recent projections that placed average corn yields at 5-12 bushels lower.

The fall harvest prognostications were presented today (Tuesday, 8/12) during a news conference at the Indiana State Fair. Among the speakers were Greg Preston, state agricultural statistician with the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service (IASS); Chris Hurt, Purdue agricultural economist; and Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan, Indiana's commissioner of agriculture.

The briefing coincided with the release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's monthly crop production report.

"I'd characterize this year as it's not where you start but where you finish that counts," Hurt said. "My guess is here in Indiana we'll see more improvement on our yields."

What looked like a disastrous crop season for Indiana following excessive rain at planting in southern counties and July flooding in northern counties has begun to turn around, Hurt said. Extra soil moisture is giving corn and soybeans a much-needed boost, he said.

Conversely, insufficient rain is hampering crop development in states such as Iowa and Nebraska, where crops were once on a bin-busting pace.

"Right now our guess is that the national crop is going to deteriorate somewhat more over the next month, which is a price-enhancing factor, while the Indiana crop of corn and soybeans is probably going to improve," Hurt said. "We had a pretty rugged start on our corn crop with late planting, as well as all that rain in July, but now it looks like there's some benefit to that rain."

That Indiana farmers could do as well as projected is encouraging, given the weather setbacks throughout the season, Preston said.

"It's hard to believe at this point in time that in April many producers in the northern part of the state were actually worried about dry conditions," Preston said. "The wet, cloudy and cool weather we had early in the planting season delayed planting and also delayed plant emergence and development.

"By May 4, we had 50 percent of the corn planted, and then we had three weeks of rain that delayed the progress of the crop. By June, corn and soybean planting was one week behind schedule. This was followed by the second wettest July on record for the 108 years we've been collecting that data. Most of the rain, unfortunately, came in the first week of July, which caused a lot of ponding and flooding along the Wabash River and White River flood plains."

Floods ruined many fields, Preston said.

"Our August crop survey showed some soybean acreage that was intended for harvest in our June acreage report was destroyed," he said. "We've lost 50,000 acres of corn and 50,000 acres of soybeans from our June acreage report. These acres will be abandoned and won't be available for harvest. This brings Indiana to a total of 300,000 acres that were planted and will not be harvested for grain."

Despite the crop losses, the estimated 144-bushel average yield is the third highest projected for Indiana in August, Preston said. State soybean yields are trending higher than 2002 in northeastern counties, he said.

Declining crop conditions in the Western Corn Belt and improving corn and soybeans in Indiana point to a surge in commodity prices, Hurt said. He predicted harvesttime prices of $2 a bushel for corn and $5.10-$5.15 a bushel for new-crop soybeans.

Combine those price outlooks with rising beef, pork and poultry prices, and farm incomes are likely to increase this year – but only to average levels, Hurt said.

"Overall I think we could see a 40 percent or greater increase in farm incomes this year," he said. "That sounds tremendous, but we have to say that is from an extremely depressed level last year. As we look at more of a five-year to eight-year average, I think farm incomes are going to be fairly close this year to what we'd say is a five-year average."

Kernan said the harvest projections represent positive news for Indiana agriculture. He added that state and federal officials are working to help farmers who lost crops.

"We've seen a lot of ground taken out of production this year," Kernan said. "That means for those producers there will be no income from that ground at all.

"This crop report is good news, by and large, for the majority of producers in Indiana, but we've got to keep in mind the many producers that were hit very, very hard."

The USDA's national crop report forecasts U.S. corn production at 10 billion bushels, up 12 percent from 2002. Average yield per acre is estimated at 139.9 bushels, an increase of nearly 10 bushels an acre from last year.

National soybean production is projected at 2.86 billion bushels, a 5 percent increase from 2002. Average yields are estimated at 39.4 bushels per acre, up 1.6 bushels an acre from one year ago.

The USDA and IASS crop projections are based on surveys with thousands of farmers in Indiana and other states.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Sources: Chris Hurt, (765) 494-4273, hurtc@purdue.edu

Greg Preston, (765) 494-8371, gregory_preston@nass.usda.gov

DeeDee Sigler, communications director, Indiana Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture, (317) 232-8770, dsigler@commerce.state.in.us

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The crop report is archived and can be viewed online at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/cropreport.html.


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