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Louisiana farmers harvesting record corn crop

Agriculture.com Staff 08/28/2007 @ 9:39am

Persistent rainfall during the growing season and dry weather at harvest time has been good for Louisiana corn farmers, according to a university report.

But that success comes with a downside. With the exceptional crop, farmers across the state are having trouble unloading their trucks at grain elevators because of backlogs that can’t be shipped out fast enough.

"There are a lot of good things you can say about the grain harvest this fall – good weather, good prices and exceptional yields," says Louisiana State University Ag Center soybean and feed grain specialist David Lanclos. "But the exceptional yields are forcing farmers to wait longer to unload their trucks at grain elevators."

According to reports at the elevators, farmers or their truck drivers are waiting up to five hours to unload trucks at some elevators in the state. The long wait causes farm crews to wait in the fields with loaded carts and combines, and this adds to the harvest expenses for the farmers.

The situation evolved over the past year as the price of corn increased to more than $3.75 per bushel and farmers doubled their corn acreage in the state, Lanclos says. Now, with almost ideal growing conditions, Louisiana farmers are expected to set a new yield record for corn.

With more than 75% of the state's 750,000-acre corn crop being harvested, there are unofficial reports of some fields cutting between 180 bushels per acre and 220 bushels per acre. The previous state record was 148 bushels per acre set in 2001.

To keep such records going, farmers need the hot, dry weather to continue so they can harvest and deliver their crop to the elevators and be paid for it, Lanclos said.

At present, grain elevators in the state are filled to capacity and are having problems finding enough trucks, barges and rail cars to move the grain from the elevators to the marketplace.

"With good weather and an exceptional crop, farmers are harvesting their crop faster than the elevators can transport the grain," Lanclos says.

As a result, some farmers are using farm storage, temporary storage or dumping grain on the ground and covering it with tarps while others are waiting in long lines at the elevators. When possible, some farmers fill their on-farm storage bins with grain first. These bins are sealed and designed with blowers to circulate air and maintain the proper moisture in the corn.

Since Louisiana normally has hot, humid weather, however, specialists say farmers need to be careful when using temporary storage, because mold and mildew can develop within weeks and damage the harvested crop.

On the other hand, as farmers finish harvesting corn and start harvesting soybeans, they will find some relief in lines at the elevators, according to the experts, who say that relief will come because the volume of grain per acre for corn is three to four times the volume of soybeans.

"Farmers are answering the call to meet the nation's need for food and energy," says Lanclos, "And we must continue to work together in the harvest of the bountiful crops."

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