Heat-damaged corn crops may raise poultry prices in Delmarva

26 percent of crops rated poor, very poor in Maryland

Heat-damaged corn and soybean crops in the Delmarva Peninsula (an area that includes most of Delaware and some of Maryland and Virginia) could lead to higher poultry prices in the area as feed prices are affected, according to farmers.

Twenty-six percent of corn and soybean crops were poor or very poor in Maryland as of July 8, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Forty-nine percent of corn in Maryland is less than good quality. Soybeans still have time to improve, but corn is a little farther along, said Geno Lowe, the director of the United Soybean Board.

According to Buddy Hance, Maryland’s secretary of agriculture, poultry hasn’t been very profitable for the last three to four years and grain prices haven’t been conducive to helping the economy. The U.S. average corn price in 2010 was $3.83 per bushel, according to the University of Illinois. In 2011, the price was $6.01 per bushel, and as of May 2012 it was $6.33 per bushel. “That’s not good for us in Delmarva,” said Hance.

Higher grain prices will put a strain on poultry farmers, which could cause some to lose their jobs, said Lee Richardson of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau. “There’ll be less employees that have to do more work,” said Richardson. “That’ll be the most direct effect on the area.” He said he also expects poultry prices, and meat prices in general, to increase.

According to Hance, early predictions indicate there will be a 7 percent price increase for poultry in the Delmarva area, but others believe the increase won’t be as big.

“All our corn and soybeans go into chicken feed, but I don’t think it’s going to affect the supply here,” said Richard Nottingham, the agriculture agent at the University of Maryland Extension. “Farmers are going to see a reduction in what they can harvest, but I don’t see it being that severe.”

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