Crop price drop could benefit consumers at grocery

Near-perfect weather conditions are creating a predicted bumper crop for local corn farmers, but the high yields this year and from last year are forcing a drop in prices not seen in the past five years.

The drop is bad for farmers but consumers can expect lower food prices and the first plunge in meat prices, experts said.

Corn prices dropped 38 percent from $6.95 a bushel in July 2013 to $4.37 a bushel late last week, according to John Miyares, a statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Great Lakes Regional Field Office.

That’s the lowest price since 2009. Prices of other crops have fallen sharply as well, with soybeans trading near 2½-year lows and wheat near four-year lows, according to Miyares.

“(Corn) prices were artificially high in the past few years,”said Jeff Wuebkur, a Darke County corn, soybeans, and livestock farmer said. “Crops were good last year, and this year they’re just as good. There’s more corn and more (soy) beans than ever.”

Corn has the potential to reach 2003’s record of 13.925 billion bushels, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its mid-year report.

Ohio farmers planted more soybeans this year than last, and so far the crops are faring well, with 83 percent at fair to excellent, the National Agricultural Statistics Service Great Lakes Region said. But soybean prices also are down slightly because of a record projected harvest this year, from $15.10 a bushel in July last year to $14.10 in June.

“Favorable early July crop conditions and weather support an outlook for record yields across most of the Corn Belt, however, for much of the crop, the critical pollination period will be during middle and late July,” USDA said.

High corn prices the past few years have meant high meat prices in grocery stores since 2012. The sudden decline in corn prices may create a price drop for meat prices in the next two years, according to Sam Custer, an Ohio State extension outreach coordinator in Darke County.

“The livestock guys benefit because (corn feed) is a cheaper input, so food costs are down,” Custer said. “Their profit will be higher, but they’re at the point where they’ve lost money in the past few years.”

Ethanol prices, though, will most likely be more reasonable, Custer said. The USDA projected corn used to produce ethanol would be at 25 million bushels higher based on the pace of production to date.

Low corn prices will impact other commodities, including farmland, which Custer said would most likely drop, and farm equipment may go unpurchased.

“This will be a harder year, but we don’t know how hard it will be until the year is over,” Custer said. “Most farmers will still make money but it will be much less than in previous years…I don’t expect to see farmers going bankrupt.”

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