WORTHINGTON — The spring of 2019 will go down as one for the memory books. A wet, cool and late spring left many farmers cramming to get their crops planted. Many were unable to get all the crop planted on time and continued planting even after final planting dates, lowering their level of insurance coverage. Many fields were not planted at all, and many acres applied to prevented planting acres.
Last winter, I prepared crop budgets for corn and soybeans to total $722 per acre for corn and $469 for soybeans, with cash rents or return of investment plus property taxes estimated at $186 per acre.
How do the economics look today?
Cash corn for 2019 harvest at Lamberton’s Meadowland Co-op was $4.17, and soybeans are $8.30. The budget used yields of 190 bushels per acre for corn and 52 bushels per acre for corn. Though yield was projected for normal planting dates, it did not take place for many Minnesota farmers.
Using a 10% yield loss due to later planting dates, the yields would lower to 171 bushels for corn and 47 bushels per acre for soybeans. Without accounting for a farm labor charge and no government payments, the prices necessary to cover input costs were projected to be $3.80 for corn and $9.02 for soybeans.
Now, using lower projected yields, the break-even prices increase to $4.22 for corn and $9.98 for soybeans per bushel. The good news is the cash corn prices are close to $4.22, but the bad news is cash soybeans have not approached $9 for last year’s crop. This situation is opposite of the past five years, where corn lost money each year and soybeans made a profit after including the MFP payment for soybeans.
Some farmers were unable to get some of both crops planted in on a reasonable timeline and chose prevented planting.
If a farmer had 75% coverage on 190 actual production history, the insurance payment would be $313.50. At 80% coverage, it's $334.40; at 85% coverage it's $355.30. If a farmer had applied fertilizer at $120 per acre, rent at $186 and weed control at $40, this totals $346 — which means a loss at 75% and 80% coverage levels, but a small profit at the 85% insurance coverage level.
If a farmer had not applied fertilizer yet, all three scenarios would generate a profit.
For soybeans, 75% coverage at 52 bushels per acre, the insurance payment would be $223.24; and at 80%, the payment would be $238.12. At 85% insurance coverage, the payment would be $253. With rent costing $186 and weed control $40 per acre (for a total of $226), all three insurance levels would be close to covering costs.
Farmers could also choose to plant cover crops, which would have tillage and seed costs and some weed control costs, not likely to total less than $40 per acre. My four marketing groups averaged over 15% of intended corn acres not planted and 5% of soybean acres not planted.
On top of this, farmers have experienced a wet weather pattern causing drown-out areas in fields that were planted.
Historically, on average, it takes the profits from 12 acres of good crop to make up for the loss of one drowned out acre. Many farmers have experienced these heavy rain events and lost planted acres due to standing water.
Both corn and soybean prices have significantly increased since the end of May and may still increase further after the Aug. 12 federal report. A price increase is still necessary for farmers to make a profit in the wet growing season of 2019.