LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky farmers are on a course toward harvesting record-breaking corn and soybean crops in the coming weeks, a government report said Tuesday.
Abundant rainfall and milder temperatures have raised expectations for the harvest in a state where corn and soybeans account for about one-third of the overall agricultural cash receipts, which are hovering around $5 billion annually. A year ago, Kentucky's corn crop was stunted by a brutal stretch of drought and triple-digit heat.
"I'd say we're going to bust some records," said Shane Bogle, the agricultural extension agent in Caldwell County, situated in the western Kentucky grain belt. "You go from one extreme to the other. No rain last year to an abundance of rain this year."
Statewide corn production is forecast to reach a record 231 million bushels, up 122 percent from last year, according to the report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service's field office in Kentucky. Corn yield is estimated at 154 bushels per acre this year, up 86 bushels an acre from last year. This year's forecast would be the second highest on record behind the 2009 crop that produced 165 bushels an acre.
Soybean production in the state is forecast at 70 million bushels, up 19 percent from last year, the report said. Yield is projected at 44 bushels an acre, up 4 bushels from a year ago. This year's forecast would be tied with the 2004 and 2006 crops as the second-highest yield on record in the state. The 2009 crop holds the record at 48 bushels an acre.
Corn and soybean fields are rated mostly good to excellent across the state.
In Caldwell County, some farmers will start harvesting corn as soon as fields dry out, Bogle said. The county received another round of heavy rain on Monday, bringing the rainfall total to 30 inches since the start of April, he said.
"We're getting what they need as far as the amount of moisture," he said. "It's almost getting to the too-much stage."
Elsewhere in western Kentucky, the crops look good in Union County, though high winds knocked down some corn a couple of weeks ago, said Rankin Powell, the county ag extension agent. Parts of the county were pelted by heavy rains this week that also could hurt some fields, he said. But overall, the crops appear mostly good to excellent, he said.
"It's too early to say for sure, but we may be on track for at least one of the higher corn production years we've had," Powell said.
One downside to the expected bumper crop for grain farmers is that grain prices have been dropping.
Corn prices have fallen below $5 per bushel amid expectations of a massive crop, said Will Snell, University of Kentucky agricultural economist.
"The big question is whether the crop will be large enough to cause prices to fall near $4," he said.
But he predicted that high yields and lower prices will still result in significant corn crop revenues for Kentucky.
Lower grain prices will help the bottom line for other farmers. The lower corn prices will result in lower feed costs for beef, pork, dairy and poultry producers in the state, he said.
Meanwhile, burley tobacco production in Kentucky is forecast at 148 million pounds, down 2 percent from a year ago. Yield is projected at 1,900 pounds per acre, down 150 pounds from last year's crop. The crop is mostly rated good to fair.
Kentucky is the nation's top producer of burley, an ingredient in many cigarettes.