Damaged crops from rain-flooded fields in June and July led the federal government Wednesday (Aug. 12) to project big drops in the amount of corn and soybeans Indiana farmers will harvest compared with last year's bounty.
Nationally, however, the crops are expected to fare better.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting that Indiana farmers this fall will harvest 867.4 million bushels of corn on an average of 158 bushels per acre. That is down 20 percent from last year's record 1.08 billion bushels on 188 bushels per acre.
Indiana soybean farmers were projected to bring in 278.8 million bushels on 49 per acre, down 9.3 percent from last year when they produced the state's second-largest crop of 307.4 million bushels on 56 per acre.
Some areas of the state were hit much harder than others, and some individual fields had both heavily damaged sections as well as areas that will produce good yields, noted Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of the Purdue College of Agriculture.
"The bottom line is that yields will be off and we'll see a lot of variability across the state," said Akridge, who moderated a panel of experts analyzing the USDA's August Crop Production Report at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The report provides the government's first projections of how much corn and soybeans farmers might harvest in Indiana and nationally.
The USDA on Wednesday designated 53 Indiana counties as disaster areas, making them and 35 contiguous counties eligible for low-interest loans through the USDA's Farm Service Agency, said panelist Julia Wickard, executive state director of FSA.
Also serving on the panel were Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture;Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension agricultural economist;Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist;Shaun Casteel, Purdue Extension soybean specialist; and Greg Matli, Indiana state statistician of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Hurt estimated the value of lost grain production - corn and soybeans - at $400 million. He said crop insurance could make up some of that.
Payments could cover 75-80 percent of losses, meaning the state could recoup about $275 to $300 million, Hurt said.
"Crop insurance is not designed to provide 100 percent" coverage, he said.
Nielsen said although flood damage had been extensive in some areas, there was still time for the corn crop to recover.
"Clearly, we have a lot of the season left to go," he said.
Casteel said the soybean crop still had significant potential for recovery and could reach its projected 49 bushels per acre, even though growth in individual plants might appear to be stunted.
"You don't need tall plants to have a tall crop," he said. He explained that shorter soybean plants could still be productive if they had healthy leaf development.
McKinney urged farmers to continue to keep good records so the state can accurately assess total losses from the flooding.
"There is still time to give feedback to the Farm Service Agency," he said.
Rain for six weeks in June and July saturated many corn and soybean fields shortly after planting, drowning the small plants or severely limiting their development. There was so much rain that Indiana set a rainfall record in June. The months of June and July together were the second-wettest June and July on record.
The USDA this week rated 25 percent of Indiana's corn crop in poor or very poor condition. Twenty-four percent of soybeans was rated in those conditions.
But water-damaged crops in Indiana as well as Illinois, Missouri and Ohio have been offset by well-above average crops in Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Nebraska, putting the crops in good position for strong production nationally.
Matli said 10 states were expecting record corn yield and 10 record soybean yield.
Farmers across the U.S. were projected to harvest 13.7 billion bushels of corn, averaging 168.8 bushels per acre. Last year, they produced a record 14.2 billion bushels on 171 bushels an acre, also a record. This year's projected production still would be the third-largest ever.
Soybean production was expected to hit 3.92 billion bushels on 46.9 bushels per acre. Soybean farmers also set records last year in both total production and per-acre yields, at 3.97 billion and 47.8 bushels, respectively.