BUTLER COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — For farmer Jeff Varner, this year marks the third in his decades-long career he’s seen drought conditions this severe.
While he estimates his crop will produce an above-average yield for the Butler County area, he says it’s nowhere near the numbers he’s seen in the past few years.
“We’ve been averaging up over 110, 120 [bushels to the acre],” Varner said.
However, due to triple-digit temperatures and a lack of rain this summer, Varner estimates his crop will yield only 80 bushels to an acre.
“This corn is done. It could rain two or three inches, and it won’t make no difference at all,” Varner said. “That’s the reason we don’t have to go to Vegas when we farm because each year’s a new and interesting gamble.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 70% of Kansas’ current corn crop falls between the ‘fair’ to ‘very poor’ categories. Only 24% falls in the ‘good’ category, and 6% falls in the ‘excellent’ category.
Despite the condition of his corn crop, Varner says he’s one of the lucky ones.
“The corn, even though it … it’s all dried up and doesn’t look the best, it’s still standing,” Varner said.
“Last year, we may have been a couple weeks out from corn harvest. This year, we’ve already started,” Jeff Seiler with K-State Extension & Research said.
Seiler says some yields from our area are estimated to be half of what they were last year.
“It’s early, but I don’t expect that to change a whole lot,” Seiler said. “There’s been some fields that weren’t even taken to grain just because they were so poor, so they chopped them for silage.”
Varner says while higher-than-usual corn prices (now between $6.50 and $7.50 per bushel, up from $2 to $3 per bushel) at several grain elevators this time of year could offset losses, whether or not he’ll break even this year is yet to be seen.
“Brings you back to the realization that you’re not totally in control of everything,” Varner said.
Varner says while the average consumer won’t take a direct hit, cattle farmers and ranchers will.
With the majority of Kansas corn going to feed livestock, experts say prices for feed grain will go up, and the need for alternative grains to supplement corn will most likely increase.