Minnesota’s two major crops, corn and soybeans, set production records last year, thanks to near ideal growing conditions in most parts of the state.
The final yields will help farmers’ bottom lines, as they needed the extra weeks of growing to make up for low prices.
Corn production at 1.43 billion bushels was 4 percent more than the previous state record set in 2012. Yields of corn in Minnesota were also the highest ever, and averaged 188 bushels per acre, 11 bushels above the previous record set in 2010.
Soybean farmers harvested 378 million bushels in 2015, up 25 percent from 2014. They also averaged 50 bushels per acre, the highest yield ever and 5 bushels more than the previous record set in 2010.
The numbers are contained in the 2015 crop summary report issued Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are close to predictions made by the agency.
The government also reported that growers planted soybeans on more acres than ever before in Minnesota — 7.6 million. Corn planted for both grain and silage was estimated at 8.1 million acres
Dave Nicolai, University of Minnesota Extension educator in crops, said farmers deserve credit for smart decisions and choosing good varieties of corn and soybean seeds, but the weather advantage was huge in 2015.
Growers got an early start in planting crops in the spring, Nicolai said, and for the most part enjoyed adequate rainfall and avoided dry periods in late July and early August that sometimes interfere with pollination and reduce yields.
“We then moved rapidly through fall without a killing frost, which is a good thing, and that resulted in good yields in corn and soybeans and sugar beets as well,” Nicolai said. “And we were able to make a timely harvest this fall and not leave crops standing in the field for periods of time. All of that contributes to overall numbers.”
Record corn and soybean crops will probably benefit livestock producers and keep feed prices low, but they won’t necessarily put farmers on easy street. The lower prices might mean the record yields didn’t mean much to Minnesota farmers’ bottom lines.
“Two consecutive record years of production have helped producers by presenting record volumes to sell, but also hurt producers by depressing prices,” said Wells Fargo chief agricultural economist Michael Swanson in a report last month. “Currently, the 2016 Chicago Mercantile Exchange futures don’t offer any relief for producers who require higher prices to cash flow.”
Other economists have also projected that large supplies of major grains in other countries and the strength of the U.S. dollar will also make it difficult for grain prices to rise significantly in the near future.
A University of Illinois report in mid-December projected that crop prices in 2016 will remain low as U.S. and world supplies remain abundant, and as slow economic growth in much of the world reduces demand. “The lower prices are expected to persist until there is a shortfall in production in the U.S. or in another major producing region,” said the report, presented at a four-day Illinois farm economics summit.
“People need to remember that this is not just an Upper Midwest market,” said Nicolai. “We’re in a worldwide market with crop reports electronically coming from all over the world. Brazil knows about our crop production as fast as we do.