Georgia corn growers can expect to face challenges in pricing this year, according to Dewey Lee, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension feed grain agronomist.
Growers need to watch their expenses closely, recognizing that there is not much of a market for corn this season, Lee said. Currently, corn is selling for $3.67 per bushel, down almost a full dollar from last July. As a result, Georgia corn acreage is expected to drop significantly from last year.
“In 2013, we were at 510,000 acres. In 2014, when prices started dropping, the acreage continued to drop to 350,000. Then, in 2015, it dropped even further to 330,000 acres. Last year, we produced about 410,000 acres,” Lee said. “As a guess, we will likely be down to around 330,000 to 340,000 acres.”
Entering the growing season, Lee said that the market for corn is rapidly declining and remains unpredictable. Growers are frustrated that the market dropped considerably, but the price of production stayed the same. Costs of seed and fertilizer treatments have not decreased. Corn is a water-intensive crop, so growers also have to factor in irrigation costs.
There other alternatives that growers may have to consider this year, Lee said.
“They (growers) have to rely either on government programs or on planting more acres of a crop that’s more favorable price-wise, such as cotton or peanuts,” Lee said. “They also may change their rotations, but a lot of growers don’t like to change their rotations because they feel it is important to subsequent crops. It’s definitely an important year for corn growers to make every decision count.”
Because temperatures are expected to be high with clear conditions this week, Lee expects many growers to begin planting their crop. Since the majority of corn acreage is irrigated, drought isn’t a concern. The only potential problem with the high temperatures is disease pressure. With prices already low, growers don’t want to lose any crop to diseases like southern corn rust.
“With prices expected to be tight this year, growers need to carefully manage their crop. There’s not much wiggle room in regard to profitability, so farmers need to make large yields,” Lee said.
Of the top three row crops that Georgia farmers produce – cotton, peanuts and corn – corn is grown on the least acreage, but still records a significant farm gate value every year. According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, corn’s 2015 Georgia farm gate value is more than $252.9 million.
(Julia Rodriguez is an intern on the UGA Tifton Campus.)