2012 Drought Ends ‘Win Streak’ For Corn And Soybean Farmers

Listen to the Story

County map of Ohio shows 2012 drought extends across state with areas of severe drought in western counties.(Photo: Drought Monitor.UNL.edu)
County map of Ohio shows 2012 drought extends across state with areas of severe drought in western counties.(Photo: Drought Monitor.UNL.edu)

While recent rains and slightly lower temperatures brought some short-term drought relief, the long hot dry spell during much of June and July is expected to take a huge toll on corn and soybean yields in Ohio and other big farming states. While this year looks bad for farmers, it follows several very good years some with record yields.

For most of the past decade, farming has been a very good business in Ohio. Some years saw record corn yields. Soybean yields have been good and steady.   Not this year.

“The win streak will definitely be over, this year, for the majority of farmers.”

That’s Ohio State University agricultural economist Matt Roberts.  He’s monitoring an area of moderate to extreme drought that stretches from Ohio to Colorado. In Ohio, the dry weather will cut yields 20 to 40 percent.

“Extremely dry, probably the driest its been in many, many years. I’d say there’s going to be a terrific drop in yields.”  Says Gary Skinner.

Delaware County farmer Gary Skinner keeps close eye on his 3,500 acres of corn and soybeans. Like thousands of other Ohio farms, Skinner’s fields are too dry, too dry even though the beans appear leafy green from the roadside.

“The height, the growth of plants a little retarded. But you can’t just eyeball, the farmer’s call that windshielding, driving down the road and looking at your crops and see what they look like and give a guess.”  Says Skinner.

Last year was an excellent year for farmers. Ohio’s corn crop was valued at $2,900,000;  Soybeans were worth $2,600,000.
But farmers won’t see that this year.  While the lower yields have caused a sharp spike in prices. Skinner says that’s little help for him because his crop will be down by at least 20%

“You’ll be lucky to break even at those levels.”

Both Skinner and Roberts compare this year’s drought to 1988. And, Roberts adds that the significantly lower yields of corn and soybeans will trigger widespread economic consequence. Roberts says some cattle farmers have already begun to sell their herds because of the high price of corn feed. Poultry, dairy and hog farmers also face higher feeding costs for at least the next year. Roberts says that will translate to higher prices for groceries.

“To put this in perspective the impact on consumer budgets, think of this as a 25 cent per gallon increase in the price of gasoline. That should be about the effect on the consumer budget that this drought will have.”  Says  Matt Roberts, OSU Ag-Economist.

Back at the century-old Skinner family farm,  Gary Skinner takes a familiar walk alongside a soybean field.

“Q) You look at this field everyday? Ans: Everyday, many times a day. Q) So you notice small changes then? Ans: Yeah, we’ll notice a weed coming up here or there. For example, you can see across the top here, those are called giant ragweeds.”
Says Skinner.

Skinner adds even though he grows only corn and beans, he’ll survive the 2012 drought, plan for next year,  and hope for more normal rainfall.

Comments