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WATERLOO | Iowa soybean and corn growers knew they had a good crop on their hands; now, it’s official: The soybean crop has set a record, and corn may not be far off a new standard.

According to last week’s U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Production Report, this year’s soybean crop will eclipse the previous record set in 2005 by nearly 25 million bushels. Soybean yields statewide are estimated at 56 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from October.

The report pegged U.S. soybean production at an all-time high of nearly 4 billion bushels, about 94 million bushels higher than last month’s projections. The average yield nationwide is estimated at 48.3 bushels per acre, up nearly 1.1 bushels from last month mainly on gains in the Midwest.

Also last week, the USDA said corn production is forecast at 13.7 billion bushels, up less than 1 percent from the October forecast, but down 4 percent from last year's record production.

Based on conditions as of Nov. 1, yields are expected to  average 169.3 bushels per acre, up 1.3 bushels from the October forecast but 1.7 bushels below the 2014 average. Based on that forecast, it would be the second-highest yield and third-largest production on record for the U.S.

Ben Buie, grain division manager in Cedar Falls for Hudson-based East Central Iowa Cooperative.

“Just on yield alone, I think it’s going to be a record bean yield for this area and one of the best corn yields ever,” Buie said.

Then, the USDA soybean report came out.

“It was a good year,” Buie said. “Weather was cooperative, and we were able to take on a big harvest in a relatively short time frame.”

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who grows corn and soybeans near Spirit Lake, said a good year by any measure could have been even better.

“For the most part, the bulk of Iowa, it really went well,” he said. “We got the crop in in good time. We did have some issues in some part of south and central Iowa where it was too wet. But, for those outside the area, it’s hard to remember that there’s still 100,000 acres in southern Iowa that didn’t get planted because it was so doggone late.”

Ideal conditions

Those who did get their crops in were rewarded with one of more cooperative growing seasons in memory, Northey said.

“We had timely rains and most off the state got weed control done, fertilizer on when needed, especially for corn,” he said. “And we ended up in fall with many folks near their best crop ever. Quite a few have told me they have the best crop they’ve ever had.”

Dustin Sage of Sage Family Farms in Dunkerton, said growers reaped the rewards of patience after a wet spring.

“Basically, it was back to more of a normal year, other than the pounding rain earlier this spring,” he said. “Yields turned out all right.

Soybean production now is in the records. Corn production may bear big numbers, as well, Northey said.

“I think we certainly have a chance at a record corn yield, and we had an awful lot of good bean yields in the 60s and 70s, and those are well above our average of about 50 bushels,” he said.

Blake Hollis with Lanehaven Farms in Waterloo, said conditions were ideal throughout the growing season.

“We kind of said all summer we couldn’t order the weather any better,” Hollis said. “Very favorable growing season pretty much up through harvest.”

If there were any challenges, he said, it came in the form of pockets of disease.

“We had some isolated cases of sudden death and white mold in soybeans, and there was a significant incidence of northern corn leaf blight that was pretty widespread,” he said.

Trading stalk strength for yield

That led to some “stalk integrity issues” through the fall, Hollis said.

“The corn definitely put everything it could put into its yield and robbed energy from its stalk,” he said. “There were certain varieties and circumstances that led to weak stalks and down corn, but all in all, the grain was dry. We have favorable harvest conditions and things came in pretty smoothly.”

Sage said he noted a bit of northern leaf blight, as well as a few other “isolated problems,” but overall, he said his crops came through in good shape.

“Nothing earth-shattering,” he said.

The markets for both corn and soybeans are a bigger problem, Hollis said.

“Making money is going to be very tricky; it’s an extremely uphill battle,” he said. “The demand scenario we’re in in this day and age is completely different from 10-plus years ago. There’s no doubt now there’s a huge issue with stocks and it’s going to take time to chew through supplies.”

Pam Johnson, a corn and soybean farmer in Floyd, cited a “ripple” low prices are sending through Iowa’s economy.

“The whole value chain suffers when prices go down,” she said, citing equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

“It has a ripple effect through the whole Iowa economy, especially in rural communities,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted she, like many of her colleagues, is storing soybeans and corn, hoping markets will rally.

“From what I’ve read and heard, everybody is battening down the hatches and storing it and hoping for better prices,” she said.

No one seems to know how long they’ll have to wait, Johnson noted.

“I can’t speculate,” she said. “We live in such a big global market, things are not like they were in the past, which depended on supply and demand. So, who knows? I’m hoping prices rally.”

Sage agreed.

“I hope they go a little higher or stay where they’re at, but they can still go down,” he said.

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