OHIO — For Judy and Carl Kempser of Anna, this year’s harvest has been a blessing in the form of better yields and prices than anyone had anticipated just a few months ago.
Harvest also is when their marriage partnership comes front and center. Teamwork rules the Kempser farm.
“I drive the combine and Carl drives the (loader) truck,” she said. “Are we a team when it comes to harvest time? You bet.” The Anna couple have completed harvest, and Judy was asked which she enjoys harvesting more, corn or beans? “I like to run corn better.”
The Kempsers, both 70, planted about 350 acres of soybeans , 220-230 acres of corn and 60 acres of wheat.
“We averaged about 50 bushels an acre for soybeans. We put out 60 acres of wheat and it looks awesome. The rain came and it looks really good. If corn made 140, we would be lucky. The dear Lord looked out for us — we got something,” she said. She added that her northern portion of Shelby County faced a severe drought this summer, only to get relief in the form of soaking rain about Aug. 14.
What will they plant in 2017? “We will probably have more corn next year, about 350 acres of corn and 200 acres of soybeans and 60 acres of wheat,” she predicted.
How are prices this year? “We have contracted for beans at about $9.60 an acre.” The Kempsers have been married for 46 years. “Carl was farming before we were married. Then we had two daughters and I stayed at home and raised the children. It was probably in the mid-80s that I started helping outside,” she said.
Regarding the 2016 growing season, she said it has been a “very interesting year. I thank God every day. The Lord has been good to us.”
It appears that for yield and prices, 2016 may turn out to be a better year than predicted for farmers across Ohio.
Harvest is more than half completed statewide, according to the USDA. How good that harvest has been depends on what part of the state the farmer is located in. Northern Ohio saw drought conditions through June and July, according to USDA statistics, while southern Ohio has far more rain. But farmers interviewed by Rural Life Today report that late summer rains in the north helped field conditions and salvaged crops.
Joe Cornely of the Ohio Farm Bureau told The Associated Press that late rain helped hardier soybean plants more than corn. While the soybean harvest won’t “make anyone wealthy” in Ohio this year, the prices that some farmers are getting for their corn crops are “considerably lower” than the cost of growing and harvesting it, Cornely said.
Ohio State University professor Peter Thomison told the wire service that corn yields in southern Ohio averaged between 200 and 210 bushels an acre, while averages in the northern half have typically been 130 to 140 bushels an acre. About half of the state’s grain corn has been harvested thus far. Clinton County, in fact, has been the yield leader for corn in Ohio the last several years.
Thomison said northern Ohio corn farmers “dodged a bullet” thanks to the late summer rain. “The yields are better than we expected they’d be given how bad the drought was,” Thomison said.
Preble County farmers Keith and Betsy Kemp, along with son Chad, harvested about 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans this year, evenly split between the two.
”We ranged from 180 to about 250 bushels an acre for corn,” he said. “We will average about 200 I believe.” For soybeans, Kemp said they averaged 67-68 bushels an acre.
But when interviewed Friday, the Kemps were not quite finished — their combine had broken down. They had about 300 acres left to go, but, “We’ll be up and running in a couple of hours and should be done by the weekend.”
What is Kemp seeing for prices? He said beans are selling in the “$9.50-$10 area; corn is back up to about $3.60-$3.80 a bushel. The markets have gone up about 25 percent the last few weeks.
“We have really been exporting a lot of soybeans and corn and that has helped the market. It has been amazing. China has really been buying beans. Our corn exports are up 78 percent over last year on corn exports,” Kemp said.
At the end of October, the USDA predicted that corn for the present harvest will total about 15 billion bushels, down slightly from the previous year. Soybeans for 2016 should total nationally about 4.2 billion bushels, with more than two billion of the bushels heading into the export market.
Kemp said he thinks this export number is about right. “We are exporting about 50 percent now on soybeans, and China is taking about 25-30 percent of those beans now. The South American crop problems last year helped, and ethanol production has been tremendous.”
What will the Kemps be planting next year? “We will probably keep it at 50-50 rotation.” He said he has heard of some farmers shifting to more soybeans next year, “and it might be about 60-40 next year. It might depend on how the next South American bean crop does.”
Kemp added that the wheat crop is “really looking good this year, also. We planted 50 acres of wheat and it looks really great.”
In Allen County, soybean farmer Harold Heidlebaugh has finished with harvest. Yield? “I have heard 119 to 130 bushels an acre for corn in this area.” Soybean yield? “One field was 62 bushels an acre and another about 70. I was very happy. The late rain really seemed to help.”
Next year, Heidlebaugh might be bucking a trend adding corn to his rotation of soybeans and hay.
Heidlebaugh said prices are better than what farmers had feared earlier in the season. “Last week I saw about $9.50 a bushel for soybeans.”
Compared to earlier predictions, he said, “Things have been a lot better than what we thought it would be. We are looking for a good winter.”
Athens County farmer Dave Bright harvested 110 acres of soybeans in Clinton County. He hadn’t finished by last weekend. “We had a delay this year — a pocket of continuous moisture in our area. We are starting tomorrow or Sunday. and should be done pretty quickly.”
He said from what he is hearing, farmers will have very good corn yields and very good soybean yields in Ohio. “There clearly are going to be record soybean yields. Corn yields are going to be all over the board, but soybean yields are going to be the highest on record.”
How does he see the export market? He is on the same page as fellow farmer Kemp and the USDA. “Exports look fabulous, demand is strong.” He said nationally he thinks soybean yield will match the 4.2 billion bushel prediction. “It is going to be that big or higher by the time it is all harvested. It has been a phenomenally perfect harvest season for everybody except for a little bit of southern Wisconsin, northern Iowa for soybeans.
“I would not be surprised at all if soybean exports are 50 percent or higher this year. Internationally and nationally demand looks strong for soybeans,” he said.
Prices? “Soybeans are hovering near $10 and in some cases more than that. It has come on strong the last week to 10 days. Corn prices have rallied. They are now $3.30-$3.40 in Wilmington,” Bright said.
Does he see any shift in 2017 in the corn to soybean planting ratio? “I expect most people to remain about 50-50 or perhaps 60-40 in soybeans. But people who plant corn — like to plant corn.”
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.