Corn growers focus on profit despite high inputs

ORLANDO, FL – How much will it cost to get this year’s corn crop into the ground?

This was a major topic of discussion at Commodity Classic, a massive trade show held earlier this month in Florida for corn, soybean and wheat growers.

The high fertilizer prices are starting to fall, but many farmers have already made their purchases for the next year. That could make things even tighter for corn farmers across the Midwest.


“The tone is rather positive,” said Marty Marr, former president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “But everyone watches these markets every single day as they start to try and trend lower. We are definitely saving one of the most expensive crops we’ve ever had.”

Increasing input costs have led some companies to focus more on targeted applications for nutrients.

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“With fertilizer prices doubling in the last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of customers who cut back on their fertilizer,” said Derek Emerin, Helena National Agricultural Engineer. “We felt we owed it to the farmers to keep an eye on the deficiencies we see and try to manage that in season as best we can.”

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Farmer David Steward, from Kenya, unloads corn into a hopper driven by his brother-in-law Luke DeGriff of Geneseo on October 22, 2020, southeast of Bison.

David Propper, para

Production issues were not the only focus of corn growers. Commodity groups are setting their own policies and hope to see more work done in the area of ​​trade.

Recently, Mexico caused a stir in the US corn market by announcing that it would no longer import genetically modified white corn. That has since been delayed after US officials argued it violated the USMCA, but Matt Rush, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, said corn growers know they need to prepare for a potential hit to exports in the future.

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A crowd gathers at the Commodity Classic, which takes place this month in Orlando, to see a presentation from producers of some of the highest corn crops in the country.

Aaron Fenner, Illinois Farmer Today

“There’s been a lot of talk about (Mexico) here and we want to hear from the people of Mexico,” Rush said. “I grow sorghum myself, and I used to say if they want non-GMO corn, we’ll try to do it, because we’re so good at innovating and doing new things, but I feel like we’re hearing from their government and not from the people.”

Public talk on trade has been somewhat absent with the current US administration, Rush said, and that he hopes to hear more on the subject from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s speech in plenary on March 10. He worries that there are markets that are not being picked up as quickly as they can be.

“We feel that perhaps not much has been done in the last couple of years to find those new markets and hopefully that will change in the next couple of years,” Rush said.

Marr echoed those sentiments and noted that South America had become a “dominant power” in the global market, increasing pressure on the United States.

“We have to be aware of some of these priorities in the Farm Act with market access and foreign development programs,” he said. “We have to keep an eye on the future and always think about the future.”

The Classic is another step on the way to the growing season, and Rush said he’s excited to be out in the field soon.

“They said the trade show is attended by over 10,000 people, so there are a lot of people with the same interest and it’s always good to see fellow farmers,” he said. “But it’s always good to be back. We’re a month away from planting, hopefully, so it’s always good to work things out.”