Estimates Show Iowa's 2009 Corn Crop Likely To Set Record

USDA September Crop Report predicts Iowa farmers will harvest 2.5 billion bushels of corn - and that will rise if good weather holds.

Published on: Sep 13, 2009

The 2009 corn crop is bigger than previously believed and the extra grain will be welcomed by livestock producers, ethanol plants and other corn users. USDA estimated on September 11 that the nation's farmers will harvest nearly 13 billion bushels of corn, a 2% increase from the August USDA estimate, and just a little less than the record harvest of 13.04 billion bushels in 2007.


Iowa is also forecast to produce a record corn crop this fall, 2.5 billion bushels, thanks to a whopper yield. The USDA September estimate says the state is expected to average 187 bushels per acre, up 16 bushels per acre from last year's average corn yield for Iowa. "It's a little hard to believe it can be that good," says Sam Carney, who raises corn, soybeans and hogs near Adair and is president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council.


He adds, "There was a considerable amount of hail and storm damage in some parts of Iowa this summer. But most of the state is doing quite well. A big 2009 harvest is certainly welcome for livestock producers. Livestock operations—hogs, dairy, poultry and beef feedlots—have been struggling financially. Now they'll be able to save on feed costs thanks to the large corn and soybean crops."


Lower corn prices help livestock and ethanol producers


USDA expects more corn to be used for livestock feed and for export. About 2.2 billion bushels of the 2009 corn crop is expected to be shipped overseas, compared with 1.85 billion from the 2008 harvest. A larger crop means prices fall and demand rises.


USDA currently estimates that farmers will receive an average of $3.35 per bushel for the 2009 harvest, down from $4.08 for the 2008 crop and $4.20 for the 2007 harvest. Golden Grain Energy, an ethanol producer at Mason City, is paying about $3 a bushel for corn now, $2 less than it was a year ago.


Declining corn prices plus the strengthening in ethanol prices means the ethanol industry is making money again after a tough year when ethanol producers were caught between plunging gasoline prices and historically high corn costs. "With lower-cost corn we can be very competitive in fuel production," says Walter Wendland, president of Golden Grain Energy.


Iowa corn crop could wind up being larger yet


USDA estimates corn yields nationally will average 161.9 bushels an acre in 2009, 2.4 bushels more than its August forecast, thanks to mild temperatures and adequate soil moisture in Iowa and the rest of the western Corn Belt and the Northern Plains during August and into September.


Iowa's estimated 2009 corn yield of 187 bushels per acre, based on growing conditions as of early September, is up from the 185 bushel August forecast. However, the corn crop could end up larger than USDA is now estimating if favorable weather conditions continue through September. Growing conditions for corn have been near-perfect this year, says Roger Elmore, Iowa State University Extension corn agronomist. Adequate rainfall and relatively cool temperatures have helped produce larger kernels.


Not everyone will harvest a huge crop. "There are some people whose crop was severely damaged or destroyed by hail and wind this summer," notes Elmore, "and in south central and southeast Iowa much of the corn and soybeans were planted late due to a wet spring. So they won't be having record yields this year, but there are many other parts of Iowa where the crops look very good."


Record U.S. soybean harvest is forecast


This fall's soybean harvest is estimated at a record 3.25 billion bushels for the U.S., according to USDA's September Crop Report. That's a 1% increase from the August estimate. Iowa's estimated 2009 soybean yield is 52 bushels per acre, which is not changed from USDA's August estimate. Iowa is expected to produce 506 million bushels of beans in 2009.


Will crops reach maturity in time before the first killing frost? "There is still some concern among farmers in my area, being farther north, as we're running a little behind normal in maturity," says Tim Recker, who farms near Arlington in northeast Iowa. "We need a later than normal frost date for everything to make it to maturity. I think if we get past the first week of October before the first frost hits, then we'll be completely out of danger. The first two weeks we've had here in September have been really great weather. Having the warmer nights has helped pushed the crop along to maturity."


Iowa maintains ranking as top corn and bean state


Estimates in USDA's September Crop Report are based on surveys of in-the-field conditions as of September 1, says Greg Thessen, head of the Iowa office of USDA's National Ag Statistics Service. Here is Thessen's summary:


Corn production for the U.S. in 2009 is forecast at 13.0 billion bushels, up 2% from last month and 7% higher than 2008. Based on September 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 161.9 bushels per acre, up 2.4 bushels from August and 8 bushels above last year. If realized this will be the highest U.S. yield on record and production will be the second largest behind 2007.


For Iowa, corn production is forecast at 2.50 billion bushels--that's up 1% from last month, and 14% higher than last year. The yield in Iowa as of September 1 is forecast at 187 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from last month.


Iowa producing 19% of U.S. corn, 16% of soybeans


On soybeans, the U.S. production is forecast at a record high 3.25 billion bushels, that's up 1% from August and up 10% from last year. As of September 1 yields are expected to average 42.3 bushels per acre, up six-tenths of a bushel from last month and 2.7 bu. higher than 2008. If realized this will be the third highest U.S. yield on record.


The September Iowa soybean yield and production forecast are both unchanged from last month. Production stands at 506 million bushels and the yield is forecast at 52 bushels per acre. If realized, this will be the second highest soybean yield on record for Iowa and third largest production on record for Iowa.


Given these production forecasts, Iowa maintains its ranking as the top corn and soybean producing state, accounting for 19% of U.S. corn production and nearly 16% of the nation's soybean crop.