Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

DROUGHT'S PAYOFF HAROLD FOERTSCH HASN'T HAD A GREAT YEAR FOR GROWING CORN, BUT IT HAS BEEN A GREAT YEAR TO SELL IT Series: PORTRAITS OF THE DROUGHT

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

DROUGHT'S PAYOFF HAROLD FOERTSCH HASN'T HAD A GREAT YEAR FOR GROWING CORN, BUT IT HAS BEEN A GREAT YEAR TO SELL IT Series: PORTRAITS OF THE DROUGHT

Article excerpt

"I just sold four trailer loads at $8.60 [a bushel]," said Mr. Foertsch, the owner of Har-Lo farm in Jefferson Township, Butler County.

Last year's average price of $6.01 a bushel had been a record price for corn.

What makes this year's number even more impressive is that early in the 2012 season, corn prices were expected to be depressed because so many farmers -- motivated by last year's record price -- planted more corn.

But that was before the drought damaged much of the crop across the Midwest.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that just 21 percent of the nation's corn crop is in "good" or "excellent" condition. More than half, 52 percent, is in "poor" or "very poor" condition.

In the big corn states of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri, less than 10 percent of the crop is "good" or better. In Iowa, it is 16 percent.

Pennsylvania usually has better crops than it has this year; 65 percent of the crop is in "good" condition or better.

Mr. Foertsch would be happy if his 400 acres of corn average a yield of 100 bushels an acre. Last year his yield was 119 bushels an acre, but the higher prices are making up for the lower yield, and Mr. Foertsch expects to earn about as much for this year's smaller crop as he did last year.

Not all of his corn sold for $8.60 a bushel this year. Farmers play the market as much as any stockbroker, and a good portion of Mr. Foertsch's corn was pre-sold at a lower price before it even matured.

Farmers across the country planted a combined 96.4 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1937 when 97.2 million acres were devoted to the crop. Yet the national harvest is projected to be the lowest since 2006.

Even with 5 percent more acres than last year, the harvest is expected to drop 11 percent because of the drought.

The USDA has reported that farmers will produce 10.7 billion bushels of corn in 2012. The average yield is expected to be 122.8 bushels an acre, the lowest since 1995.

Corn production on Pennsylvania farms is expected to top the national yield per acre, with 125 bushels an acre coming off the farms here. The USDA projected farms across the state will produce a total of 125 million bushels, 17 percent more than harvested in the state last year. …

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