Virginia corn growers had good weather and great yields in 2015, according to the latest crop production estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact many Virginia growers did better than their counterparts in the Midwest.
“The Eastern Corn Belt had early-season excessively wet weather that limited some of their production,” said Robert Harper, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation grain manager.
Corn production was down five percent from 2014, however, as growers planted 50,000 fewer acres last year. Virginia corn yields were estimated at 161 bushels an acre, and total production at 48.3 million bushels. Corn prices declined in 2015, one of several factors that may have led Virginia farmers to plant fewer acres, Harper said.
Overall production of other major Virginia row crops also declined last year, according to the USDA. Soybean production was estimated at 21.4 million bushels, down 15 percent from 2014. Virginia cotton growers harvested about 144,000 bales, a 35 percent drop from the previous year. Significant rain damage in September was a major cause.
Flue-cured tobacco production was down eight percent from 2014 at 49.5 million pounds; burley tobacco production was estimated at 2.41 million pounds, down 18 percent; and dark fire-cured tobacco production was estimated at 575,000 pounds, down 21 percent. Peanut growers were expected to produce 73.2 million pounds, down 13 percent from last year.
Even hay production was off, with an estimated 225,000 tons of the high-value forage—a 12 percent drop from the previous year. Corn, soybean, cotton and flue-cured tobacco growers all planted fewer acres last spring.
“Everything in commodity agriculture is a cycle; it probably always will be,” Harper said. “And certainly one thing that affects acres planted is price. Last week’s USDA report estimates three million fewer acres of wheat where planted nationally compared to last year. I’m guessing that some of this reduction of corn and soybeans and cotton from the 2014 growing season to 2015 was price-related.”