State's corn, soybean forecasts still growing

Record crops likely, U.S. says

farmers facing lower prices

Agriculture

September 13, 2000|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland's field corn crop, already expected to set a record this year, will be even bigger than expected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture upped last month's estimate of the size of the state's corn harvest by 3.3 percent yesterday, to a record 155 bushels per acre.

The government also increased its estimate of the size of the soybean harvest to a record 38 bushels per acre, up from its August forecast of 37 bushels.

"We continue to have excellent conditions for corn and soybean development this year," said Ray Garibay, head of the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service, a part of the USDA.

The situation is pretty much the same throughout much of the nation's grain farming region.

The USDA is forecasting record corn and soybean harvests, which will add to already big surpluses and drive prices down to levels seen during the farm recession of the 1980s.

U.S. corn production is forecast to be 10.4 billion bushels, unchanged from last month's estimate, but 10 percent larger than the 1999 crop.

Based on field conditions as of Sept. 1, the USDA forecasts soybean production to be a record 2.9 billion bushels, down 3 percent from last month's estimate, but also 10 percent bigger than last year.

John Schnittker, a private agriculture consultant, said the big harvest will keep prices down far into next year.

Garibay pointed out a downside to the rainy summer that produced the excellent corn and soybean crops in Maryland.

"There was too much water for some fruits and vegetables," he said. "It reduced the sugar content of the peaches. They are not as sweet this year. There are a lot of peaches, but they are not as good this year."

He said the rains caused watermelons to split from growing too fast and tomatoes to rot in the field.

Although tobacco acreage is down about 500 acres this year, Garibay said production is expected to total 1,550 pounds per acre, compared with 1,400 pounds per acre last year.

Farmers are reporting that the high humidity is causing some tobacco to mold after being hung in the barn to cure.

"Our hay crop looks solid," Garibay said. "We will probably have a surplus to send to farmers in the Southeast," where a severe drought has damaged pasture land.

The USDA is predicting that Midwest soybean prices will average $4.75 a bushel this year, the same level as during the hard times of the 1980s. Corn prices are expected to average $1.70 a bushel, their lowest level in 20 years.

The bulk of Maryland's corn and soybeans goes to poultry processors on the Eastern Shore, who pay a slightly higher price because they don't have to pay shipping charges from the Midwest.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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