January 14, 2013 | Back to: News

Tales of tough times backed by USDA 2012 crop-production report

After tales of tough times on Colorado farms came in bulk supply during the past year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last weekend released statistics that more than backed up the anecdotal accounts.

Much of the United States endured historically dry times in 2012, but Colorado actually fared worse in a number of crop-production categories compared to much of the country.

According to the USDA’s Crop Production 2012 Summary report, corn-for-grain production in Colorado in 2012 was down 22 percent from 2011, and down 26 percent from two years ago.

For the entire United States, corn-for-grain production was down only about 13 percent from 2011 and from 2010.

Also, the percentage of corn acres in Colorado harvested for silage, which requires less water to produce than corn for grain, increased to about 15 percent — double the percentage of the past couple of years in the state, and double the percentage for the entire United States in 2012. Along with the drought, though, some of the silage increase is attributed to a growing dairy industry in the state, as dairymen prefer that feed over grains.

Wheat production for the United States in 2012 was actually up 13.5 percent from 2011, and up 3.3 percent compared to 2010.

But in Colorado, it was down 8.5 percent from 2011, and down nearly 31 percent from 2010.

Colorado farmers had tough decisions to make this past year.

It had been dry across the state since fall 2011 — even longer for the southeast part of Colorado — and crop growers were left to ponder if they should plant fewer crops or plant as normal and hope there would be rain when the growing season rolled around.

Some farmers overplanted, according to the USDA report.

Of all crop acres planted in Colorado during 2012, about 11 percent were left unharvested — more than twice the percentage for the rest of the United States.

“It really matches up with what we saw on our farm, and what you hear from a lot of other guys around here,” Weld County commissioner and Platteville-area farmer Doug Rademacher said of some of the recent USDA statistics. “It was a challenging year to grow a crop, that’s for sure.”

Many of Colorado’s farmers were forced to choose which crops received limited irrigation supplies.

In many cases, farmers who grow more valuable crops — like sugar beets, potatoes and onions — elected to save those crops and let some of their corn and wheat acres go dry.

It takes a long time to establish markets with local and nationwide grocers and cooperatives for certain crops, and coming up short on a contract could leave producers looking for new buyers the next year.

That being the case, sugar-beet production in Colorado increased by 14 percent in 2012 from 2011, and increased by about 22 percent across the United States.

Potato production in Colorado increased a slight 1.5 percent from 2011, and potato production across the United States increased nearly 9 percent.

Rademacher and other local producers said that because farmers elected to save their more valuable crops, and because commodity prices were high across the board, many farmers still experienced good income years — a statement backed by recent USDA farm-income projections that call for 2012 farm incomes to not be far off from previous record-setting years.

However, the shortage of corn, hay and other sources of livestock feed continues to leave feedlot operators and dairymen in a tough spot.

Like wheat and corn, Colorado’s 2012 alfalfa-hay production was down nearly 10 percent from 2011, while production of other types of hay was down about 8 percent from 2011.

Hay stocks on farms and ranches in Colorado are now the lowest since 2002, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Colorado office.

Not only is feed in short supply locally, it’s expensive, and with many livestock feeders having to haul it in from other states, the fuel costs only add to it.

“You’re looking at about a $25-$30-per-head loss, because of how expensive feed is,” said Steve Gabel of Eaton, who operates Magnum Feedyards.

Colorado in recent years has led the nation in proso millet production, but production was down this year 76 percent from 2010, and down 72 percent from 2011.

Barley production was down in 2012 nearly 15 percent from the previous year.

Sunflower production in the state was much less than half of what it was in 2011, and much less than one-third of what it was in 2010.

Dry-bean production in 2012 was actually up 42 percent from 2011, but only about two-thirds of what it was in 2010.

“Just pray for snow and rain,” Rademacher said. “I’m not sure we want to go through another 2012, and we can’t count on commodity prices staying high enough to bail us out again.”

Eric Brown
ebrown@greeleytribune.com


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My Windsor Now Updated Apr 22, 2013 06:08PM Published Jan 18, 2013 12:14AM Copyright 2013 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.