Rain makes grain: Midwest set for big crops
CHICAGO – A wet June across the main U.S. grain belt and the continuing outlook for a mild summer are pointing to another bumper corn and soybean harvest for the world’s largest food exporter, analysts say.
By the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, heavy rains across the Midwest and Plains had replenished soil moisture in most of the nation’s big crop growing region. For many meteorologists and farm forecasters, the second straight year of favorable early summer weather is making the record drought of two years ago a distant memory.
“We feel pretty good about the outlook in general,” said Elwynn Taylor, a veteran climatologist and agronomist at Iowa State University. “The odds right now are that the U.S. Corn Belt will have a yield that is well above the average.”
The U.S. Agriculture Department forecasts record yields this year: corn at 165.3 bushels per acre and soybeans at 45.2 bpa, equating to record harvests. Some analysts are penciling in even bigger yields, as high as 170 bushels for corn.
Big crops are good news for food processors, livestock producers, ethanol makers and exporters that have been paying hefty prices for corn and soybeans the past few years after grain supplies shrank due to the 2012 drought. Grain futures prices are now at their lowest in four to six months, with corn near $4.20 and beans at $13.90.
But too much rain the past week in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota flooded a small percentage of the states’ acreage, maybe 1 to 2 percent experts say. But Taylor said higher overall yields will counter any such shortfalls.
“There are some places that because of too much moisture have flooding, washouts, erosion. That’s regrettable, but if farmers had to have one, they’d take the moisture rather than drought,” Taylor said.
Overall picture positive
A good chunk of the southern Plains, big wheat and cattle country hit by several years of drought, also benefited from above-normal rains last month. But rains put the Kansas winter wheat harvest behind a couple weeks and damaged some mature wheat, crop specialists say.
Iowa, the top corn and soy state, received nearly 10 inches of rain in June, almost double the normal June rainfall, according to the state climatologist office. That sets up perfectly for corn, which enters its key pollination stage this month.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday shows drought has eased since the start of planting, particularly in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.
“The general pattern will continue with local pockets of excessive wetness, with parts of the far upper Midwest on the cool side but the overall picture for corn and soybeans remains positive,” said Brad Rippey, a USDA meteorologist.
“Unless something drastically changes over the summer we’re looking at big crops,” said Josh Senechal, a meteorologist at Freese-Notis, who forecasts a mild Midwest summer.