With 95 percent of the harvesting completed, the Maryland Department of Agriculture raised its estimate yesterday of the size of this year's drought-damaged corn harvest.
Based on field conditions as of Nov. 1, the department's Agricultural Statistics Service increased its forecast of the state average corn yield to 80 bushels an acre, up from 75 bushels last month, but still 42 percent below the 139 bushels that farmers harvested from each acre planted last year.
That will be the lowest yield since four years ago, when another drought hit Eastern Shore farms particularly hard and reduced the average corn yield to 78 bushels an acre.
M. Bruce West, the department's chief statistician, said the increase in the latest estimate is because "farmers tend to be a little conservative and they slightly overestimated the damage of this year's drought."
The soybean harvest also showed a slight gain, rising from an estimated 25 bushels an acre in October to 27 bushels this month. That would still be 10 bushels below last year's yield per acre.
"Soybean farmers benefited from a late frost that added about two weeks to their growing season," said West.
Despite the slight improvement in crops over the past month, 1997 has not been a good year for state grain farmers. State Agriculture Secretary Lewis R. Riley estimated that this year's drought will reduce farm income by about 40 percent, or about $147 million.
In August, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman declared much of Maryland's drought-damaged farmland a disaster area, clearing the way for farmers in 17 counties to qualify for low-interest loans from the federal government.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening is seeking additional help for Central Maryland livestock and dairy farmers, who saw their grain crops, which would have been used for feed, dry up in the field. The drought destroyed about 80 percent of the 1997 corn crop in Frederick, Carroll and Washington counties.
The governor has requested that Glickman provide emergency funds that state farmers could use to buy livestock feed.
The USDA is still considering the request, said James M. Voss, head of the Farm Service Agency office in Columbia that administers USDA policy in the state. Voss said drought-damaged farms in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are being added to the request for emergency feed funding.
Pub Date: 11/13/97