Idaho farmers increase corn acreage
By John O’Connell
AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — Significantly more corn will be planted in Idaho than last year, though the national crop acreage will drop, according to a recent USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service planting intentions report.
Idaho farmers, who have planted more corn than potatoes in recent years, expect to seed 380,000 acres of corn, an increase of 9 percent.
Plantings in Oregon, at 80,000 acres, and Washington, at 190,000 acres, should be unchanged. NASS predicts the total U.S. crop will be 91.7 million acres, down 4 percent from last year.
American Falls farmer Kamren Koompin will increase his corn crop from 900 acres to 1,200 acres this season. He likes to plant corn following potatoes, which leave little residue.
Idaho is a corn-deficit state with large dairy and livestock industries. Koompin said feeders spend roughly $1.60 extra per bushel to import milled corn from the Midwest, guaranteeing local growers a price premium. This season, he’ll capture more of the premium by contracting directly with small, local feed lots this season, cutting out feed handlers. The Koompins will charge their customers a fee to store and deliver grain as needed.
“If we want to capture a little higher price, we probably have to cater to these guys who are local and smaller,” Koompin said. “There’s a lot of room in there for them to pay less and us to make a little more.”
While other local farmers hire custom harvesters, the Koompins commited to corn last season by buying their own harvesting equipment.
He advises growers to take the time to find a variety that dries quickly, though producers may also sell high-moisture corn to feeders to reduce that risk.
“The big push (for corn) is in the Magic Valley and some of eastern Idaho from Fort Hall to Idaho Falls,” Koompin said.
American Falls farmer Jim Tiede will increase his corn crop from 130 acres to 150 acres. He likes planting corn for the rotational benefits of killing resistant weeds with different herbicides than he uses in wheat and for the improved soil tilth.
Mountain Home farmer Jeff Harper plans to increase his corn crop from 1,000 acres to 1,200 acres this season. Harper, who has grown corn for more than a decade, sells his grain corn through a handling company but has a direct contract with a dairy for silage corn, which represents a third of his crop.
“I think the dairies really like to feed corn silage,” Harper said. “The price of hay has been so high. Corn silage to a certain extent can replace hay in their rations.”
Harper said he still pockets at least 60 cents per bushel on grain corn compared with the Chicago Board of Trade price due to the savings in transportation.
“The (corn) price the last few years has been so high,” Harper said.
When Idaho’s water outlook appeared poor in early February, Harper anticipated cutting out much of his corn acreage with crops that require less water. Wet weather in February and March enabled him to stick with his initial plans.