Md. corn, soybean crops seen down from last year

But expected yields remain high, relative to weak '99 harvests

October 13, 2001|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Maryland's corn and soybean crops, though large, will not match last year's records, but bigger-than-expected harvests in other parts of the country are expected to keep pressure on commodity prices, the head of the state's Agricultural Statistics Service said yesterday.

Based on field conditions Sept. 1, the state corn harvest is expected to total 59 million bushels, down 5 percent from last year but 77 percent larger than in 1999.

Soybean production is expected to be 20 million bushels, 10 percent less than last year but nearly 40 percent more than farmers harvested in 1999.

The corn yield is projected at 138 bushels per acre. That is 17 percent below last year's yield but is still the third-highest yield on record, said Ray Garibay, the state statistician.

Garibay estimated the soybean yield at 39 bushels per acre, down from last year's record 43.

"I would say that 138 bushels for corn is still an excellent yield," said Garibay. In a normal year, he said, farmers will average 110 bushels of corn per acre.

"Thank God for the high production," Garibay said. "With prices where they are today, it would be tough for farmers to pay their bills if it were not for the high yields."

He said corn is currently selling for $2.05 a bushel in the state, up 5 cents from the season average last year, but well below the $2.98 a bushel that farmers received in 1997.

Soybean prices are not doing nearly as well, he said. Maryland farmers are being paid between $4.10 and $4.20 a bushel for their beans, down from the $4.60 a bushel they received last year and 39 percent less than the 1997 price of $6.90 a bushel.

Because Midwest farmers are expected to harvest more corn and soybeans than originally predicted, analysts say that prices will likely drop later in the harvest season.

In its monthly survey of crop conditions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the soybean harvest at a record 2.9 billion bushels - 3 percent more than the government estimated last month and 5 percent ahead of last year's production.

Corn production is predicted to reach 9.4 billion bushels, up 2 percent from the September forecast.

The corn and soybean harvest "is bigger than what the trade thought, but not as big as we were talking in the spring," said Don Roose, an analyst with U.S. Commodities Inc. "We're already at prices that are on the low side of the government's estimates."

Garibay said the large crops and low prices in the Midwest have an indirect impact on Maryland farmers because the vast majority of the grain grown here goes to the poultry industry concentrated on the Delmarva Peninsula. While market conditions in the Midwest "will not help increase prices here, they will not hurt us as much," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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