Fields of gold?
Ethanol demands to prompt increase in local corn production,but farmers still struggle with increased fuel, fertilizer costs
May 23, 2007TRI-CITY AREA — Local farmers hope the golden hue of seed corn translates into golden year-end profits.
Thanks in part to ethanol demands, Michigan farmers have seen corn prices more than double over the past year and for that reason, they hope to cash in on what's otherwise been this area's second best crop.
According to the state's 2002 Census of Agriculture, soybeans are the top crop in both Lapeer and St. Clair counties.
"The increase in corn production and acres planted should be around 10-15 percent and I would expect it to come at the expense of soybeans," said Phil Kaatz of the Michigan State University Extension.
That could equal up to 4,700 more acres of corn in Lapeer and 4,100 additional acres in St. Clair.
United Agri Products (UAP) salesman Brian Kinzer said they've noticed an increase in seed corn sales over past years.
"You can tell a difference," he said.
Last week found Kinzer, and fellow UAP employees Norm Tanis and Jeremy Horny planting a test plot on Imlay City Rd.
But some of the luster has already worn off corn's promise as the cost of seed, fertilizer and fuel to power equipment has all gone up due to rising energy prices.
"There have been opportunities to price corn throughout the winter, allowing producers to be profitable if they realize good yields," Kaatz said.
"But all the increases in input prices certainly does put the squeeze on net income for farms."
Already, some are linking price jumps in milk, beef and other food products to the corn demand.
"There's still going to be an adequate food supply," Kaatz said.
"We may see some short-term increases."
The farmers who decide to stick with soybeans won't be missing out either. April 2007 bean prices were up by more than a dollar a bushel compared to a year ago.
"We have seen an increase in the commodity prices for both are up compared to the last several years," Kaatz said.
"Beans have been pulled along with the corn."
Despite the corn acreage hike, soybeans will presumably stay on top in this area.
In Lapeer County, more than 50,000 acres of beans were planted compared to 31,798 acres of corn.
In St. Clair County, more than 75,000 acres of beans were planted, followed by corn for grain close to 28,000 acres. Corn for silage ranked fourth in the county's top crops at 1,526 acres.