This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2012 - Crop production across the country is expected to fall to its lowest point in recent years, a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday. To blame: the record-breaking heat and drought that has gripped much of the country this summer, withering crops and stunting yields.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), a service of the USDA, predicts corn production will be down 13 percent compared to last year and will likely be its lowest level since 2006. Soy production could be slightly better, but will still fall 12 percent from last year.
Because farmers planted a record number of acres this spring, production levels should be partially insulated from crop yields, which are expected to slide at a faster rate to their lowest points in a decade.
Nationally, the average yield for an acre of corn is expected to be off more than 23 bushels from last year to 124.3 bushels per acre, the lowest average yield since 1995. Soy is expected to be down a little more than five bushels per acre from last year to 36.1 bushels per acre, its lowest yield since 2003.
In Missouri and Illinois, where most farmers are dealing with extreme drought conditions and dangerously low soil moisture levels, yield and production levels for both corn and soy are expected to be worse than national averages, the report found.
Corn yields in Missouri are expected to drop 39 bushels per acre to an average of 75 bushels per acre, and in Illinois, yields should drop 41 bushels per acre to an average of 116 bushels per acre. Overall corn production (affected by number of acres planted) is expected to be off 28 percent in Missouri and 25 percent in Illinois.
Soy yields are expected to be down 6.5 bushels per acre in Missouri to an average of 30 bushels per acre and 10 bushels per acre in Illinois to an average of 37 bushels per acre. Production is expected to be down 19 and 26 percent respectively.
The report is likely unsurprising to farmers across Illinois and Missouri. Many farmers in the bi-state region have reported giving up on the 2012 harvest, chopping corn for silage or plowing their crops under. Timely rain could still boost soy production, growers and agronomists here said, but current corn yields are unlikely to shift.
The NASS report bases its predictions on conditions experienced as of Aug. 1. The next national report is due in early September. The latest Missouri crop progress report will be published Monday.
The National Weather Service in St. Louis said earlier this week that the start to 2012 has been the warmest on record for much of the area.