Douglas County farmers harvesting another strong corn crop

Doug Ferguson unloads a truckload of corn Monday at Baldwin Feed Company. Ferguson said his Franklin County cornfields were averaging about 120-170 bushels per acre this year.

Doug Ferguson was happy with the progress of his fall harvest as he unloaded corn Monday morning at Baldwin Feed Company.

“We’re getting up to 170 bushels per acre,” he said of the corn harvested from a field in Franklin County. “It’s going pretty good.”

Ferguson’s truck was the first in the queue of four semitrailers filled with corn waiting to unload at the Baldwin City elevator. The elevator’s owner and manager, Steve Wilson, said the corn harvest was in full swing.

It appears, this will be another in a recent string of good corn crops, Wilson said.

“We’re seeing about the same yields and prices as a year ago,” he said. “People are seeing anywhere from 120 to 170 bushels an acre, plus.”

The yields indicated that cornfields in Douglas and Franklin counties benefited from timely rains, Wilson said. You don’t have to go far to the west or south to find areas where corn yields are down for lack of summer rains, he said.

That’s what the Ottawa Cooperative Association was seeing in its much wider trade area, said Clark Wenger, the co-op’s CEO and general manager. The Ottawa Co-op owns 15 elevators in northeast and east-central Kansas, including two in Lawrence.

Yields in its southernmost elevator in Burlington have not been as good, Wenger said. Overall, he said yields have been anywhere from 100 to 200 bushels per acre, but he expected them to increase to from 150 to 200 bushels per acre as farmers harvest later-maturing varieties. One positive is that this year’s corn is free of the ear-rot disease that plagued the 2016 harvest, he said.

The corn harvest has been delayed as farmers have had to wait for the crop to adequately dry, Wenger said. He estimated on Monday that half the corn crop was harvested in Douglas County and northern Franklin County, but said about 60 percent of the corn remained in the field in the Ottawa Co-op’s larger trade area. Farmers made progress Monday and Tuesday, but rains forecast for later in the week could stall the harvest, he said. If that happens, he looks for the focus to shift to the soybean harvest, which is more adversely affected than corn by weather when left in the field unharvested.

With the soybean harvest barely started, Wilson anticipated elevators would be confronted with the same storage shortage concerns as last year.

“I think we’ll be full, especially if the beans are as good as they look,” he said.

The Ottawa Co-op has entered into a joint venture that has made more trucks available to move grain and also has built two ground bunkers that add 1.2 million bushels of storage, Wenger said. He nonetheless said the co-op could be forced to store some grain temporarily on the ground.

“It all depends on the weather,” he said. “If we get a long dry spell when everybody runs combines, it doesn’t take long to choke things up. I know people taking grain to terminals in Topeka and Kansas City are reporting long lines, so there are storage constraints.”

His elevators have a lot of wheat that producers are storing rather than selling at depressed prices, Wenger said. Unfortunately, farmers aren’t going to be happy with the current prices the freshly harvested corn and soybeans are fetching, either, he said.

“It’s supply and demand,” he said. “We’ve had five good harvests in a row. That doesn’t make the prices any better. It’s nice that they are getting good yields to offset the prices, but I don’t know if that’s enough to make up the differential.”