Ag economist: ‘Corn is much more competitive’



HUNTINGBURG — Michael Langemeier shared an agricultural prediction of good and bad news on Monday night.

The good: Corn is making a comeback, becoming more competitive and profitable for farmers to sell in 2019 than it has been in recent years.

The bad: The value of soybeans is expected to drop.

But that doesn’t mean farmers should swap out all their beans with corn. Langemeier, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, predicted that soybeans will remain the more profitable of the two crops this year, despite the forecasted fluctuations.

But he did predict that the relative profit disparity between them will shrink.

“The main message there is corn is much more competitive this year than it has been the last five years,” he said prior to his hourlong presentation.

He explained to the crowd of about 80 attendees at Huntingburg’s Venue 1408 that the relative profitability of bushels of corn and soybeans changes every year.

From 2007 to 2012, for example, corn was the more profitable crop of the two because farmers were building up the ethanol industry. But since 2013, soybeans have been the more rewarding, largely due to an increase in overseas demand.

Langemeier’s presentation was part of a three-speaker outlook and farm succession workshop aimed at educating area agricultural producers and their families about maintaining local farms now and into the future. Other presenters discussed farm succession planning and preserving and locating farm-related records and materials during unexpected disasters and transitions.

“Since 1973, there’s only been four years where Indiana has had more soybeans than corn,” Langemeier said. “Two of them occurred in the last two years. And so really what’s happening in 2019 — we’re returning more to normal; normal cropping patterns in Indiana, compared to where we’ve been recently.”

The Purdue professor noted that the relative profit advantage predicted for corn could disappear if the nation’s corn acreage increases by more than 3 million acres. Farmers will know if that is expected to happen later this month when the United States Department of Agriculture releases its annual acreage report.

Ken Eck, educator for Purdue Extension-Dubois County, said the predictions Langemeier presented don’t factor in external factors like weather conditions and the international political climate.

He said after Langemeier’s presentation that the information he presented is still valuable to farmers because it helps them plan how much of each crop they will plant on their properties.

“If you’re going to decide how many acres of corn or soybeans or wheat ... you can use some of those numbers to say, ‘OK, I might be able to make more money in this area over here by having this crop,’” he said.

Dubois County is filled with a “little of everything,” Eck said in regards to the types of agricultural producers in the area. Most local farmers are in a corn and soybean rotation, meaning they flip between the two from year to year.

Many use the plants to feed livestock, and some are exported outside of the county.

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