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ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

Weld crops back to basics

Farmers stung by corn price drop last year

Disillusioned by last year’s corn prices dropping too quickly to be taken advantage of, Northern Colorado farmers are looking to go back to their typical crop rotations.That’s according to Craig Anderson, state director of the Colorado Sugar Beet Association and a third-generation farmer. Anderson, whose 320 acres lie southeast of Longmont in Weld County, said that last year, area farmers motivated by a summer price hike in corn – $5 a bushel – and concentrated on that crop were disappointed by a price drop when they were ready to sell.
“We are concerned with prices,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see a big overplant in corn [for 1997].”
Anderson said he’ll work sugar beets, corn, alfalfa and barley wheat this year.
Most of the acreage in Weld County farms is in field crops, and grain corn takes up the second-largest number of acres, right behind winter wheat. For 1997, grain corn will hold to its No. 2 ranking in the state’s counties that produce grain corn, said Ann Garrison of the University of Northern Colorado’s Department of Economics.
Weather, as always, is the caveat for forecasting crop production, but Garrison adds another factor.
“If the weather and government policy are a constant this year, I don’t see any great changes,” Garrison said.
Garrison tracks Weld County’s field and vegetable crop production. By year’s end, a projected 120,000 acres of grain corn will be harvested, according to Garrison’s projections for 1997.
In 1995, acres harvested of corn totaled 100,000 in Weld County. Grain corn was ranked No. 2 in Colorado in 1992, 1994 and 1995. For the same years, Weld County has retained a No. 1 ranking in silage corn. Garrison projects that 39,000 acres of silage corn will be harvested in the upcoming year.
Jim Geist, field services director of the Colorado Farm Growers’ Association, said that most of the corn growers with whom he associates farm in the northern part of the state. Contrary to Anderson’s prediction, this year will see an increase in corn production statewide due to a good stock-market showing, Geist said.
Prices on the Chicago Board of Trade for March are at $2.70 a bushel. The recently enacted Freedom to Farm Act, which phases out certain government farm subsidies through 2002, could increase the number of bushels of corn produced because farmers will be market driven on what they plant instead of motivated by subsidies, he said,
“In 1996, Colorado ended with the third-largest corn crop in the nation,” he said. “I’m speculating that due to today’s strong prices and exports holding steady as well as industrial usage (ethanol production), prospects look good for 1997.”
According to Garrison’s predictions, in 1997, sugar beets will rank No. 1 in the state in Weld County and will be harvested from 21,500 acres, a drop from 21,660 acres in 1995. Dry beans will rank No. 1 in the state in Weld County and will be harvested from 34,000 acres, an increase from 27,500 in 1995.
Weld County ranks seventh in the state in winter wheat, but Garrison expects the number of acres to drop from 170,000 in 1995 to 160,000 harvested in 1997.
Dana Scheidecker, of the Northern Colorado Agri Business Association, said that although wheat is an important crop in the area, it’s less profitable because it is unirrigated and more susceptible to the vagaries of the weather.
“Gross dollar potential peracre for sugar beets, pinto beans, barley and corn are higher,” he said. As a farm-management specialist, Scheidecker helps farmers in Northern Colorado prepare financial statements for bank loans.
Alfalfa hay, cut four times in a good year, is an important crop in the rotation as a soil replenisher.
This year it could also be a money maker. Alfalfa hay should be fairly profitable this year because a lot of hay got too wet last year, according to Scheidecker.
“The market is strong for good quality hay,” Scheidecker said.
According to Garrison, Northern Colorado’s vegetable production is increasing in importance. Garrison said that in 1991, the county had 31 percent of the state’s acreage in vegetables, By 1996 the share had grown to 36 percent while at the same time the number of acres used to farm vegetables in the state rose only 6 percent. The most important vegetables grown in Weld County are seeded onions, transplanted onions, sweet corn and carrots.In 1991, Weld County had 15,366 acres in vegetables, in 1996 there were 20,953 acres. Colorado’s use of land for vegetables was 53,674 acres in 1991 and 57,166 acres in 1996, Garrison said.
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Farmers stung by corn price drop last year

Disillusioned by last year’s corn prices dropping too quickly to be taken advantage of, Northern Colorado farmers are looking to go back to their typical crop rotations.That’s according to Craig Anderson, state director of the Colorado Sugar Beet Association and a third-generation farmer. Anderson, whose 320 acres lie southeast of Longmont in Weld County, said that last year, area farmers motivated by a summer price hike in corn – $5 a bushel – and concentrated on that crop were disappointed by a price drop when they were ready to sell.
“We are concerned…

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