WASHINGTON – Corn and soybean production is expected to reach thelowest level in years in Maryland, as drought conditions continue tohammer farmers, according to new estimates from state and federalagricultural officials.
The Maryland Agriculture Statistics Service reported Thursday thatcorn production is expected to hit only 33.2 million bushels this year,the lowest level since 1993.
Soybean production is expected to reach only 10.6 million bushels, the lowest since 1987. The yield of 21 bushels per acre is the lowest since1966 for soybeans, officials said.
The drop is even sharper when compared to the relatively good harvestsof the last two years — 55.8 million bushels of corn and 20.1 millionbushels of soybeans were harvested last year.
Forecasts are down from just a month ago, when a late-season raincould have revived faltering crops.
“The glimmer of hope that we had on Aug. 1 just went out the window,”said Ray Garibay, statistician for the agency that issued the report.
With the start of the harvest last week, it’s too late for the corncrop to be helped by rain. But Garibay said late-planted soybeans, whichaccount for 35 to 40 percent of that crop, still have a slim chancecoming back.
For the soybeans to exceed expectations, however, the region needs a “good, solid rain” several times a week before the end of September, said Maryland Department of Agriculture spokesman Don Vandrey.
That probably will not be happening: The National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration on Thursday predicted that the drought thathas been gripping the region this summer will continue through the fall.
“This time last year, Mother Nature turned the spigot off and we’vebeen playing catch up ever since,” Garibay said.
Farmers are left with few options to offset their losses.
“Once you get past a certain point, there’s just nothing you can do,”said Vandrey, who said that some farmers are abandoning fields when theircrop yield becomes too low.
The crop outlook is also bad news for the poultry industry, whichrelies on corn and soybeans from the Delmarva peninsula for almost all ofits feed.
A spokesman for Perdue Farms Inc. said it is too early to predict howmuch feed the company will have to import from outside the region, butmost of it will come from the Midwest at a significantly higher cost.
It is also too early to peg a dollar loss on the soybean and cornharvest, which brought in $82.1 million and $94.6 million, respectively,last year. Prices per bushel are still fluctuating and the harvest hasnot completely come in, said Garibay, but the loss will be significant.
“When you’re looking at half a million dollars sitting out there inthe fields, it makes it tough to sleep at night,” he said of farmers.