In late February, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service released the yield estimates for corn and soybeans in Illinois last year. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The Year in Corn
The final corn yield for Peoria County was 214.7 bushels per acre—second only to Menard County, which averaged 216.3 bushels an acre. Rounding out the Tri-County region, Woodford and Tazewell counties averaged 199.8 and 196.9 bushels per acre, respectively.
These are very productive numbers. Of the 102 counties in our state, 24 counties saw their average exceed 200 bushels per acre. It was just a few years ago that a 200-bushel average seemed like we had reached Pikes Peak, yet the trendline continues to move upward at a steady pace.
How many acres of corn do we have in Peoria County? Harvested acres last fall were 105,300. Woodford County had 121,900 of harvested corn acres, and Tazewell County had 138,600 acres. Doing the math, total production in our three counties (Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford) was more than 74 million bushels. The average cash price for corn that farmers could have received from the local grain elevator or processor this past winter was well over $5 a bushel. Of course, most of those bushels were likely sold last fall when $4 a bushel was a great price compared to what it’s been in recent years.
The Year in Soybeans
Now let’s look at soybeans—the second most popular crop in Peoria County, Illinois and the Midwest. In Peoria County, the average yield for soybeans was 64.1 bushels per acre, compared to 62.8 for Tazewell County and 62.2 for Woodford. Once again, these are all very respectable yields, considering that last August and September were on the dry side.
Looking at the numbers on harvested soybean acres, we find there were 83,300 acres harvested in Peoria County, 122,900 acres harvested in Tazewell County, and 116,500 acres in Woodford County. This is typical when comparing corn and soybean acreage—there are usually more corn acres.
Doing the math on soybean production, we find that our total harvested soybeans last fall was over 20 million bushels. Just like corn, soybeans made an incredible leap in prices from last July to this winter. Prices were struggling to stay above $8 a bushel last July, but steadily trended upward over the next six months, surpassing $14 a bushel. Unfortunately, there were not too many bushels left to sell at $14. When soybeans started to rise last August and reached $9, this triggered a mental selling price for farmers, as reaching $10 was unforeseen.
The China Market
What caused this run-up in prices the second half of the year? One major player was China, which has made record purchases of corn, soybeans and pork from the U.S. Sometimes it’s hard to know why such large purchases were made, but we do know that people in China love pork. It is a staple of their diets. In fact, China’s production of animal protein (meat, fish, milk and eggs) has increased eight-fold over the last 40 years.
At more than 1.4 billion, China has the largest population of any country in the world—that is four times the population of the United States. (India is a close second at more than 1.3 billion in population.) American farmers are keeping a close eye on China, both their food production and their food needs. This market is essential in order to keep our rural economic engine humming. PM