(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
"The corn really suffered through the heat of July. July was a monster," said Gene Danekas, director of the Missouri office of the USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service.
Across the state about 44 percent of corn is considered to be in poor or very poor condition, according to the USDA's weekly crop progress report. Only 30 percent of Missouri corn is considered to be in good or excellent condition.
Southeast Missouri farmers have harvested about 82 percent of this area's corn crop, and local farmers are finding disappointing yields.
Frank Milde, whose family has farmed off County Road 318 for seven generations, said his corn yield is down about 30 percent from an average year. He's also got more invested in this year's crop because he had to replant about half of his corn after April's heavy rains and flooding.
Late planting has also delayed this year's corn harvest for Milde and many other local farmers.
"This year, the corn is just not drying down. Usually we're done by the first of October," Milde said.
At this time last year, 97 percent of Southeast Missouri corn was already harvested.
"You can't control Mother Nature, so you just have to ride it out," said John Peters, who farms off Route K in Cape Girardeau County.
Overall, he's had an average corn crop this year. "Hill corn was kind of sorry. Guys I've talked to say their corn was just horrible," Peters said.
Balancing out the pathetic yields on his hill fields, his corn planted in the river bottoms near Dutchtown fared much better, he said.
"Nature was on my side there," Peters said.
The yields Missouri farmers are seeing for this year's corn crop vary widely depending on location, said Mike Geske of Matthews, Mo., who serves on the National Corn Growers Association board of directors.
"Across the state, most of the farmers are reporting better yields than what were expected, but in our area, most are reporting yields worse than expected," Geske said. "There are an awful lot of acres really suffering."
Farmers who sold their corn on contracts earlier this year and locked in high prices may come out about even financially, despite their yields being lower.
"We're fortunate this year we have higher commodity prices. That will help us tremendously with this low yield," Milde said.
In the past month, however, corn prices tumbled from near $7 to about $5.80, Geske said.
Prices are falling because of the USDA's prediction last month that this year's corn crop will be the third-largest in U.S. history.
"Other parts of the U.S. seem to be turning out better than expected. Even in Southern Illinois, the heat wasn't as much of a factor there as it was here," Geske said.
The dry, cool days in recent weeks have made for a nice harvest season, Danekas said. About two-thirds of corn statewide has been harvested already, he said.
At SEMO Port, grain elevators have stayed busy with a steady flow of trucks hauling corn for shipping and processing, said Dan Overbey, executive director.
"The good weather has helped spread out the harvest. We haven't had trucks backing up. Folks have been coming and going without any problems," Overbey said.
The Route AB extension from highways 74 and 25, scheduled to open later this month, will provide more direct east and west access for local farmers to and from the port. The Missouri Department of Transportation will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new roadway Oct. 18.
"The immediate benefit for the port and the farmers that come here especially will be safety," Overbey said.
Currently, grain trucks coming from the west must get onto Interstate 55 to access the port.
Route K, Cape Girardeau, MO