Higher yields but lower prices are producing a fall harvest in Douglas County that will allow area farmers to reap financial rewards that only are average at best, agricultural experts said this week.
Douglas County's corn harvest is an estimated 90 percent complete while the soybean crop is about 80 percent harvested, said Bill Wood, ag agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County.
But at Lawrence's two grain elevators this week prices for soybeans were less than $4 a bushel and near the $1.70 per bushel mark for corn. Mary Ross, with Nunemaker-Ross Farms, said those prices would make it difficult for the year to be successful for area farmers.
"I think you would have to call it an average or below average year because of the prices," Ross said.
Added Jim Elder, another area farmer: "It's going to be bad. If we pay expenses, we'll be lucky."
The good news, farmers say, is that this year's yields largely are better than a year ago. Soybeans are averaging more than 30 bushels an acre, Wood predicted, which is well above the 15-bushel yield that fields averaged last year when the crop was devastated by a late dry spell.
Corn yields are running from 100 to 140 bushels per acre this year, compared with a county-wide average of 102 bushels in 2000.
The yields are in line with statewide estimates from Kansas State University officials, who expect the corn crop to produce an average yield of 136 bushels and soybeans to check in at 30 bushels per acre.
"If you've got the bushels, at least you can hope for the price to go up," said Mark Domann, manager of Ottawa Coop's Midland and North Lawrence elevators. "If you don't have the bushels, hoping won't even do you any good."
The fall harvest is critical for Douglas County farmers because corn and soybeans are the most abundant crops on area farms. Wood said that while this year's prices were poor, government subsidies should keep many farms afloat for another year.
"The only profit farmers have made the last few years is from government subsidies," Wood said. "We don't like that, but that's the world that we live in.
"I'm guessing if the government took away the subsidies, nearly everybody would be losing money. But with the subsidies, they'll make a little, but not enough to pay down any debt."
This week, the government was paying subsidies, or loan deficiency payments as they are called, that amounted to 14 cents for every bushel of corn and $1.33 for every bushel of soybeans.