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For many growers in Mid-South, record crops brought big smiles

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While producers in the Midwest corn/soybean belt saw yields from one of the earliest-planted-ever crops dry up and fade away in the searing summer drought, many growers in the Mid-South had all-time-best corn, soybean, rice, and cotton harvests.

“It was the best (fill in the blank) crop I’ve ever had.” That statement has been heard often around the Mid-South this winter.

While producers in the Midwest corn/soybean belt saw yields from one of the earliest-planted-ever crops dry up and fade away in the searing summer drought, many growers in this part of the world had all-time-best corn, soybean, and cotton harvests.

Growers getting their feet wet with their first-ever peanut crop brought in quite good yields, and many established growers had best-ever yields. Even stepchild wheat had above-average production and many growers had record rice yields.

Bountiful yields weren’t across the board, of course. There were Mid-South areas where rains didn’t come and crops suffered. Overall though, farmers had an exceptional year, yield-wise and price-wise.

Chatting with growers in recent weeks, many reported 250 bushel-plus corn yields. Some had fields or portions of fields that cut more than 300 bushels. They were, understandably, all smiles.

Not that many years ago, it would have been a challenge to find cornfields in the Mississippi Delta. Now, driving around in summer it’s reminiscent of Iowa or Indiana, with dazzling green corn as far as the eye can see.

And with the short 2012 crop, U.S. growers are expected to plant even more corn in the coming year — 96 million acres, maybe more. All eyes will be on the Midwest. If last year’s drought continues into 2013, with another short crop, there is no precedent for where corn prices might go, says John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “I don’t know where the top could be,” he said at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.

Farmers I talked with there were pleased as punch with their crops this year.

One, who farms in north Mississippi, said he harvested 50 bushel-plus soybeans, sold 10,000 bushels at $18, and expects to average $14 on the rest of his production.

While the soybean supply is tight now and prices good, the outlook isn’t as potentially explosive as for corn, Anderson says, because South America’s soybean crop will be coming in toward the middle of the marketing year to temper prices. But in world corn production, the U.S. is the 800 lb. gorilla, and what happens here will point the way to price action.

Although cotton’s kingship has long been gone, this was a second year of excellent yields for the fiber crop. Many growers reported best-ever yields. Plantings next year are expected to fall even more as supply continues to outstrip demand — some say sub-10 million acres for U.S. cotton as growers switch even more land to corn and soybeans.

As for this year’s Cinderella crop, peanuts, growers are waiting to see what kind of contracts will be offered for 2013. It’s pretty much a given they won’t be at 2012’s stratospheric levels. But, Delta farmers have become fond of growing peanuts, and it’s likely next year will see another large acreage planted.

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