Minnesota has country's best corn crop in a drought-stricken season, USDA says

bionicteaching | Flickr Creative Commons
In a widespread drought, much of the country's corn crop looks like this. Minnesota farmers are faring best.
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Remember all those corn cobs at the state fair last weekend? Well, Minnesota's corn crop is the strongest in the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today. That ranking could translate into profits for our farmers, as the rest of the grain belt struggles with a drought that's causing the weakest projected yields since 1995, and the smallest expected harvest since 2006.

For some perspective, the USDA is expecting 2 billion fewer bushels of corn than last year -- that's 10.7 billion instead of 2011's 12.26 billion. Nearly one-tenth of that crop is projected to come from Minnesota, which is currently on track to produce 1.18 billion bushels of corn.

This year, farmers across the state planted more corn acreage than ever. And all those acres are yielding higher returns than the rest of the country's: While the USDA predicts a national per-acre average of 122.8 bushels, Minnesota is on track to produce 156 bushels of corn for every acre planted. We've felt the drought too -- that state average is lower than past years' -- but the 33-bushel difference between us and the rest of the country is significant.

The USDA's report was actually better than expected. After the updated projections, corn prices fell, though farmers can still expect to earn more than $7 per bushel (benchmark: on August 10, prices hit a record high of $8.49 per bushel). According to the Wall Street Journal, these steep prices "will ripple through food markets, eventually hitting consumers." Stock up on corn (and more importantly, corn-fed meat) while you can.

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