Crop forecast hard to come by this fall

va farm bureauThe last available crop forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are dated Sept. 30, right before the congressional budget impasse shut down non-essential parts of the federal government. But as of that date Virginia crop conditions were generally good.

“Corn yields were really good this year, but that crop’s already made,” said David Coleman, grain marketing manager for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “We don’t know yet about the soybean harvest, because most growers haven’t started harvesting the later-season beans. And it was very dry in September, which may have hurt soybean yields.”

As of the first days of October, Virginia’s corn harvest was well under way if not finished in some areas. Timely rains this summer made for one of the best corn yields in many years, although farmers won’t know statewide totals until the government goes back to work. Peanut harvesting had just begun, and conditions were promising for them as well.

“Some of the farmers I talked to said peanuts were doing good,” said Neil Clark, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agricultural agent in Southampton County. “Earlier on, the dry weather was holding up the peanut harvest. But about two or three days before the rain came this week, folks were working hard to bring in the crop.

“Cotton was a little late, but it added some weight last week when the heat came on,” Clark added. “The early beans looked alright, but some folks didn’t even get the late beans in this year because of a rainy spring.”

M.L. Everett Jr., a Southampton County peanut and cotton grower, said he was “looking at an extremely good peanut crop, and our cotton crop is about three weeks late. Our late soybeans were planted around July 17, about two weeks later than we would usually consider planting them. But overall, we feel very blessed with the crops that we have.”

As of the end of September the Virginia tobacco harvest was mostly completed, and an excellent apple crop was halfway harvested. Pastureland was drying out and probably got even drier during the 10-day period of unseasonably warm, dry weather from the end of September until Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, the lack of hard agricultural data comes at a time when commodity markets are already skittish due to goings-on in Washington and a declining stock market

News reports note that some traders are pulling out of commodities. Because raw farm commodities basically trade at world prices, the ripple effects on food prices and supplies could be significant if the budget showdown continues or worsens.

“Something has caused the commodity markets to drop. I don’t know if the lack of reports from the USDA is at fault, but they’re down,” Everett said.


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