Crops suffer from dry spell

Crops suffer from dry spell

A roundup of agricultural news:

SPRINGFIELD — Hot, dry weather is dragging down prospects for Illinois corn and soybean crops. Even so, about 60 percent of crops statewide were still rated good or excellent Sunday.

Forty-five percent of the state's corn crop was rated good and 14 percent was rated excellent, according to the Illinois office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Another 28 percent was classified as fair, while 10 percent was poor and 3 percent very poor.

For soybeans, 51 percent of the state's crop was rated good while 9 percent was deemed excellent. Another 28 percent was fair, while 10 percent was poor and 2 percent very poor.

Meanwhile, soils continue to dry out.

In the state's eastern region, which includes Champaign-Urbana, Danville and Kankakee, 63 percent of the topsoil and 54 percent of the subsoil was either short or very short of moisture.

Rising feed prices cutting into hog farmers' profits

URBANA — Rapid increases in feed prices have raised expected costs for hog farmers, just as it appeared hog production was heading back to profitability.

Corn prices rose about 50 cents a bushel in the last few weeks, resulting in an increase in hog production costs of about $2.20 per live hundredweight.

Soybean prices rose about $90 a ton, escalating hog production costs by about $2.80 per live hundredweight.

"In combination, the two price increases have pushed up expected costs by nearly $5 per live hundredweight," said Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt in a release distributed by the University of Illinois.

That would result in total expected costs of $59 per hundredweight over the next 12 months, he said.

Even with those costs, hog farmers are projected to make a slight profit.

Hog "prices this fall and winter are expected to be around $61, rise to $65 in the second quarter of 2014, and then drop to about $62 for a third-quarter average," he said.

But Hurt said hog farmers may want to scale back any expansion plans. He suggested they limit expansion of breeding herds to 2 percent or 3 percent.

A 2 percent expansion in breeding herds would result in about a 4 percent expansion in pork production — partly because the number of pigs per litter has been growing and weights have been increasing, he said.

An expansion of 2 to 3 percent in breeding herds would likely push producers back to "break-even" levels, Hurt said. Any larger expansion could result in losses starting in the fall of 2014.

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