Drought hurts Michigan soybeans; southern counties hit hardest
By Edith Zhou
LANSING – Like corn and apples, Michigan’s soybeans have been hit hard by the drought and extreme hot weather.
“We are facing a 60 to 70 percent reduction of soybeans altogether compared to normal years,” said Tim Boring, research director of the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee in Frankenmuth.
According to figures from the committee, Michigan ranks 12th among nation’s 31 soybean-producing states. Nearly 2 million acres are planted annually in Michigan.
The economic impact of soybean farming in 2011 was approximately $1.25 billion.
Crops in some areas, especially the northern part of the state, are doing well, but others are not.
“Lenawee, Cass and Kalamazoo counties will have small crops because they barely had any rainfall,” said Bruce MacKellar, field crop educator at Michigan State University Extension in Southwest Michigan. “As you go north, for example Saginaw, you start seeing crops with 70 percent production.”
Other major soybean areas include Lenawee, Montcalm, Lapeer, Eaton and Clinton counties.
Among southern counties, St. Joseph County is an exception to the low yield.
“We are expecting 80 to 90 percent of our normal yields this year with the help of our irrigation system,” said Jon Zirkle, field crops program instructor at MSU Extension in St. Joseph County.
“Since we are doing a very good job at soybeans, it balances our risks from corn this year,” Zirkle said.
The county has about 50,000 to 60,000 acres of soybeans, including the most irrigated fields in the state.
Fred Henningsen, who grows 10 acres of soybeans on his farm in Nottawa Township, said he is enjoying his little surprise harvest.
“Soybeans are the best field irrigated crop and I would say that there will be 7-8 percent more yield this year,” he said.
Henningsen also said that he sees a big demand for soybeans driving prices higher, farmers can make more money.
Based on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group’s figure, the price of soybeans is around $15.50 per bushel.
MacKellar said, “Since we are having two harvests now, the price has been a little bit lower, but it is still very strong prices”.
Mackellar said that the normal prices of soybeans around this time of the year was $7 to $8.
Boring also expressed a positive view about price. “The stronger prices are going to happen because the drought hit most of the soybean producing areas, and at a national level, we had a reduced yield.”
Boring expects more people to grow soybeans next year.
“Most farmers in Michigan grow soybean and corn together. Based on this year’s soybean’s performance compared to corn’s, there will definitely be more people growing soybeans,” he said.
Both Boring and MacKellar predict soybeans won’t have a big influence on the labor market.
“We do not need that many laborers working on soybeans like laborers needed to pick apples,” Boring said.
MacKellar also said that even though the price of soybeans is higher, there will be only a minimal additional cost for consumer products.