Farmers bring in corn crop
Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Local farmers have finished harvesting a fairly good corn crop and will be working on the rest of their crops in the coming weeks, but they’re concerned about low prices in the commodity markets.
“It seems to have been a pretty good crop, considering some of the adverse weather conditions we had this summer,” farmer David Bosselman said of the corn crop. “Prices are down on it. Everything’s gone down — peanuts, cotton, the whole nine yards.”
The state as a whole is projected to have record-breaking corn yields for 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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“There is so much corn, so much corn,” said Robert Harper, grain manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Farmers were able to get their crop planted in a timely manner and had near-ideal growing conditions this year.”
In Suffolk, growing conditions varied from field to field based on soil type and rainfall, farmer Shelley Barlow said.
“When it was raining nonstop back in the spring, that hurt some of the corn that was planted on the wetter land,” Barlow said. “It’s shaping up to be the kind of year where there’s tremendous variability from one field to the next and one farm to the next.”
While some of the variability can be controlled by good management, the soil type and weather can’t be controlled, Barlow noted.
“Somewhere the first week of August, it stayed hot, but the rain cut off completely,” she said. “We got almost no rain for about three weeks.”
Bosselman said peanuts look to be a pretty good crop, while cotton and soybeans look average.
“We’re going to be OK in this area, but there’s going to be other areas that aren’t going to fare as well,” he said.
Barlow said grain sorghum, which has requirements similar to corn but is more drought tolerant, also looks good this year.
The concern among many farmers is the prices, Barlow said. Cotton closed at 60 cents per pound on Tuesday.
“I’ve sold cotton for a lot cheaper than that, but that’s not good,” she said. “Seventy-five to 80 cents is very acceptable; anything over 80 is great. But here we are sitting at 60 going into the harvest, which is pretty discouraging.”
Other commodity prices are down similarly, but Barlow said she remains hopeful that above-average crops and prices in the last three or four years will allow farmers to weather the agricultural downturn. Her family made some investments in new equipment in recent years, but that likely won’t happen this year.
“We’re not going to be able to reinvest a lot of money into our businesses for this next year, which is not the end of the world,” Barlow said. “People are going to maintain the status quo. I don’t ever think it’s an occupation where you’re going to get rich.”
Barlow also said she’s praying for a safe harvest.
“We’ve got some long hours ahead of us,” she said.