News / USA

    US Officials Predict Drop in Crop Prices

    In this Sept. 2012 photo, John Honeywell directs a mixture of seed wheat and rye into a grain drill to plant winter wheat for cattle grazing near Orlando, Oklahoma.
    In this Sept. 2012 photo, John Honeywell directs a mixture of seed wheat and rye into a grain drill to plant winter wheat for cattle grazing near Orlando, Oklahoma.
    Prices of corn, soybeans and wheat are likely to decline this year, according to the latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

    Although farmers are going into this season with the ground still extremely dry after last year’s record-breaking drought, the USDA still expects good yields this year.

    Weather, like the winter storm which blew through the southern Great Plains this week bringing relief from the drought conditions which have lingered since summer, will be a critical factor.

    Hard-hit harvest

    Wet, heavy snow and ice blanketed Scott Neufeld’s farm near Fairview, Oklahoma.

    “This couldn’t have come at a better time," he says.

    Since September, Oklahoma has received half to two-thirds of its normal rainfall, and the winter wheat crop is in bad shape. Some of the fields Neufeld planted last fall hadn't even sprouted.

    “There are some of our acres that didn’t emerge," Neufeld says. "And this moisture will sprout that seed and get it out of the ground.”

    Neufeld expects his wheat harvest will probably still fall below normal.

    Needed rainfall

    Average rainfall the rest of the season would not get the region out of the drought.  Precipitation in Oklahoma has been below normal nearly every month for almost two years, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Curl.

    “It’s going to be hard," he says. "We’ve been in such a deficit for such a long time. It takes a while to dig into these kinds of situations, and it takes a while to dig out as well.”

    To get back to normal, Curl says the state needs an additional 25 to 50 centimeters of precipitation on top of its usual amount.

    More than a third of the country is in severe drought or worse as farmers prepare to plant next season’s crops. It follows three consecutive down years for corn harvests and a bad year for wheat in 2011.

    The latest predictions call for drought to persist over the western part of farm country, but Texas A&M University economist Mark Welch says farmers don’t need a wet year to produce a good crop.

    “With the technology that we have built into the farming practices," he says, "with the varieties that have been developed, seed technologies, it’s just incredible what some of these crops can do.”

    Welch says it’s unusual to have two extremely dry years in a row and that there’s little connection between dry soil at the start of the season and crop yields at the end.

    Optimistic outlook

    Announcing the latest crop outlook Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Chief Economist Joe Glauber was optimistic.

    “We’re expecting a rebound in yields," Glauder said. "We should see record production, I think, for corn and soybeans. That means lower prices.”

    But Glauber noted he made almost the same announcement last year. Then the drought hit.  With world supplies of corn and soybeans extremely tight, Welch says the weather forecast will drive the market.

    “If it’s for a dome of high pressure, up go the prices," Glauber says. "If it’s for a cold front to push through and bring some rain, down will come the prices. And so, we’ll bounce around with that all season.”

    That outlook suggests farmers and consumers alike should brace for another volatile year for crop prices.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora