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Corn farmers likely to see high yields, low prices

By Katie Demeria

Local farmers are reporting they should see a strong corn crop this year, but the market prices may not be quite so positive.

Hubble French of Franley Farms in Woodstock and Robert Whitehurst of Frederickson-Whitehurst Farms Inc. in Mount Jackson both said that their crops look good -- as does most of the corn throughout the country.

"It's looking excellent," French said. "But the market dropped. It's down now."

"It's a supply and demand business," Whitehurst pointed out. "When the supply goes up, the demand goes down."

Whitehurst has been farming on his own for three years, and this year he is expecting to have the biggest crop he has ever had.

But yields throughout the rest of the country are also very high -- they are expected to break records, Whitehurst said.

French said two years ago a drought out West hurt the crop, but corn in the valley was doing well, bringing the price up.

While market prices are now lower than they were two years ago, the price of production has remained relatively stagnant.

"It costs the same, if not more, to grow the corn," French said.

Whitehurst said the market price has declined by $4 to $5 per bushel since he first started three years ago.

"Yields will make up for that somewhat," Whitehurst said of the reduced price. "But at the same time, it's going to be a little bit different -- not as great, or lucrative, a year."

French said he attempts to keep up with the market. This year he sold his corn in 5,000 bushel increments, starting in January, and did well with the prices.

"I'm pretty happy with my crop, considering what I got in," he said. "I can't complain. It's at least been a money-making year."

The weather has had a significant impact on crops in terms of how quickly they are coming in, especially for David Lay of Linda's Mercantile and Farm Market in Winchester.

"Everything is late," Lay said, referring to not only his corn but other crops as well, including tomatoes.

Bill Cline, of Cline's Farm in Clear Brook, said all the rain has been missing his part of Frederick County, seriously impacting his sweet corn crop.

Whitehurst pointed out that most of the storms hitting the valley this year have brought severe weather, but not much rain.

He added that the cool weather was good for the corn during pollination, but it does increase the risk for disease and funguses.

Some sprays would reduce that risk, but Whitehurst said he did not spray this year because it is not altogether clear yet whether or not doing so will produce a greater profit.

"I've talked to a few local farmers and they say, with the lower prices, if you're getting an extra 10 bushels, you might have a stronger, healthier plant, but you're just trading dollars for dollars," he said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com

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