Kansas farmers begin harvesting bountiful corn crops thanks to timely rains, but prices low

IndustriesAssociated Press

The five round steel grain bins at Randy Small's farm in southeast Kansas are nearly full, and farmers have dumped about a half-million bushels of corn on the ground at the local grain elevator because it, too, lacks enough storage room to hold it all.

Plus, this year's harvest has barely even begun on the bountiful fields of corn, bolstered by timely rains. A government report released this week estimated 7 percent of Kansas corn had been cut as of the end of August, mostly in southeast Kansas.

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Small began cutting his 600 acres of corn at his Montgomery County farm more than a week ago and he's about two-thirds done, he said Thursday. Though his 25-foot-high grain bins can hold 45,000 bushels, he's had to deliver loads to the elevator because he's running out of storage on the farm.

"It's probably going to be the best crop we have had in 10 years," Small said.

With ample corn crops in Kansas and across the nation, those high yields have driven down corn prices that reached as high as $7 a bushel locally this winter for last year's crop. Now hovering closer to $2.96 a bushel at the elevator in Neodesha, Small says he has to have a large corn crop to make up for the lower prices.

Some Kansas farmers will have exceptional yields, Kansas Corn Growers Association spokeswoman Sue Schulte said, a welcome relief after the winter wheat crop was plagued by drought during its growing season. Thanks to the copious rain that hit during wheat harvest in June, corn and other spring-planted crops got a boost, though the return of drier weather and high temperatures in August lowered expectations.

At Terry Vinduska's Marion County farm in south-central Kansas, the corn seed he had planted in early spring lay in the ground for three weeks before it got enough rain to germinate. Corn flourished during a wet June, and the heat and drought stress that came in late July and early August — when the ears were filling out — did not hurt as much as he had feared.

"It is average to maybe a little better than average," Vinduska said of his corn crop. "It is certainly much better than what we have had the last three years — more than double what we harvested the last couple of years."

The increased harvest will help Vinduska somewhat ease the financial blow from a wheat harvest that brought in half of what he normally grows.

"Our expenses don't decrease because we have a drought. We have the same expenses whether we harvest a normal crop or half a crop — the fertilizer, chemicals, cash rent, machinery payments — all those things stay the same. So when our income is cut in half, it is devastating.

"This corn crop is huge for us to try to maintain some cash flow and financial solvency to get us to next year," he said.