Corn production improved for Shenandoah

While corn production is estimated down for the state, the Shenandoah Valley appears to be “better than average,” according to Bobby Clark, Shenandoah County extension agent for the Virginia Cooperative Exchange.

According to data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the state’s corn yield was estimated at 142 bushels per acre as of Nov. 1. Total harvest is expected to be 350,000 acres for the state.

If that holds, then 2014 will end up as a less-productive year for the state as a whole, compared to the record-breaking numbers of 2013.

Even though the harvest season is not over, Clark said he believes that Shenandoah County had a better than average year for corn production.

At the moment, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has no estimates regarding countywide data for corn production. According to Herman Ellison, director of the Virginia Field Office of the statistics service, the data for the individual counties will not be available until February.

Although the per-county data has yet to be released, Clark is optimistic about this year’s yield for the county.

Compared to last year, Clark said that the harvest effort for local farmers has been moving along at a faster rate. Some farmers were still harvesting into January of this past year, said Clark.

“If the weather holds up for the next few weeks … farmers should be able to complete their harvests on time,” Clark said.

Two factors that would hinder the current on-time harvests, according to Clark, are rain and snow.

Brett Wightman, a local Edinburg farmer, expressed similar sentiments regarding Shenandoah’s corn production. Although his harvest is also not complete, Wightman said, “This year’s yield has been better than normal.”

According to Wightman, a big factor in this year’s yield was the weather. The more moderate summer temperatures coupled with steady rainfall in July helped production, Wightman said.

However, Wightman added that while his farm saw more yield per bushel, it did not see more dollar per acre. That has neither helped nor hurt profits, he said.

This production for Shenandoah also appears to have occurred despite the fact that the price of corn per bushel is down to about $4 this year as opposed the $5 per-bushel prices from 2013, according to Clark.

Clark said that it is hard to expect local farmers to see more than $100-$200 in net profit per acre from this year’s harvest.

Again, Clark noted those numbers are above average for Shenandoah County.

As for what this means for the future of corn production in Shenandoah County, Wightman said that he could see the price per-bushel go down even more than they did for 2014. This is largely due, he said, to less land being available to plant corn.

Wightman said the shifts in the corn industry are certainly going to “affect my farm, but it’s not a huge percentage.”

He added these factors should at least make some local farmers be more “detail-oriented than normal” with their operations.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com