According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture yield estimates, Southeast Missouri will have the highest corn yield in the state, despite being in the most extreme category on the U.S. drought monitor.
Bootheel farmers are expected to have yields of 153 bushels per acre, even higher than last year. Last year's corn crop suffered from late planting as farmers waited for flood waters to recede. The average yield in 2011 was 149 bushels per acre.
Southeast Missouri farmers will have more than twice the yield of the rest of the state and most of the country. This is primarily due to irrigation which is easier to use in Southeast Missouri than other parts of the state because the land is flat.
Missouri's average yield for corn is expected to be 75 bushels per acre. The west central part of the state is expected to have the lowest yields, with just 45 bushels per acre.
This year, corn growers across the U.S. are expected to average 123 bushels per acre, down 24 bushels from last year in what would be the lowest average yield in 17 years, according to the USDA.
The August crop report is the first crop report of the growing season where USDA officials actually go out into the fields, explained David Reinbott, agriculture business program director for the University of Missouri Extension in Scott County. Prior yield estimates were based on farmer surveys.
While local daytime high temperatures broke record after record this summer, the evening temperatures were cool enough to allow irrigated corn plants to recover from the stress over night, said Mike Geske of Matthews, Mo., who serves on the National Corn Growers Association board of directors.
But he's not overly confident in the USDA's production estimates, which show Southeast Missouri will harvest about 79 million bushels of corn this year.
"There's been a lot of acreage already cut for silage. I think there's going to be a lot more acres like that and that could cut a little more into production this year," Geske said.
In the meantime, corn prices are climbing, up nearly 7 percent in the last month to $8.09 a bushel Friday.
But Geske said most Bootheel farmers already have contracts with prices set months ago when corn was in the $5 to $6 a bushel range.
"Most farmers had forward priced their corn pretty heavily this year. We had an enormous crop size planted and everybody was projecting a huge price decrease," Geske said.
U.S. farmers planted nearly 96 million acres of corn this year, the most since the Great Depression, according to USDA. That's 3.9 million more than last year and almost 10 million more than in 2009.
Now, USDA expects only 87.4 million acres to be harvested.
Those who had forward priced contracts but had little or no corn crop due to the drought will likely have to buy corn at $8 a bushel from other farmers who did have a crop to fulfill $6-a-bushel contracts, Geske said.
Corn growers are also concerned rising corn prices will lower demand in the long run.
"The thing that's got everybody worried is that these high prices will cause a significant reduction in demand that will cause significantly lower prices later on," Reinbott said.
Geske said farmers like high prices, but not this high.
"Even though it's sweet right now, long term it's not good," Geske said. "We're expecting exports of corn to be cut in half next year because of the price."
High prices could also put some ethanol plants out of business, Geske said.