Colorado corn harvest has been a good one, grower reports

Yuma, Colorado-based farmer Mike Lefever works primarily with corn and millet and this year’s corn crop had a consistent theme—drought—but still yielded mostly pleasant surprises.

One exception was an encouraging dryland corn crop in Washington County lost about 30 bushels per acre when a wind storm knocked many ears off the stock prior to harvest, he said. That crop had potential of about 75 bushels per acre. The corn that is on the ground will be available to feed livestock.

In 2022, in that county he plans to plant about 160 acres of corn and 160 acres of millet, depending on fertilizer costs and availability.

He is also part of an operation in the Haxtun area that includes about 3,200 acres of corn, which includes dryland and irrigated corn.

“The irrigated corn was terrific,” he said, adding it achieved at about 272 bushels per acre.

Dryland corn yielded between 78 to 82 bushels by Haxtun. Lefever weas able to take advantage of favorable market prices and locked in a profit.

“We ended up contracting $5.50 corn,” he said.

“Next year we will complain about when we are spending $5.49 worth of fertilizer—if you can get it,” he quipped.

Trying to contract fertilizer right now is an adventure and he has not been able to get a full contract for his fertilizer needs for a 2022 corn crop. In 2008, when the last bubble occurred in fertilizer market, the price was high but he could contract it for his growing season. Right now, he said that is not an option and that is frustrating in trying to plan for the 2022 season.

“If you had planned to purchase $50,000 worth of fertilizer and if you think it is $1,200 a ton right now, you’ll only be able to so much but we’ll (the sellers) only guarantee 60% of that,” Lefever said. “If we (the sellers) have it you can buy all of it and if we don’t you can get 60% of it and then we’ll refund the rest of the money back to you. “

On top of that there is no guarantee what will be available in the spot market so he is weighing several options that could include planting more millet.

“It all depends on whether we can get the fertilizer and the price of fertilizer on how much corn we can plant. Millet takes about a third of it,” he said. For the 2021 growing season, dryland millet was paying $9 a bushel and at 50 bushels an acre is a profitable one, according to his formula.

The fertilizer challenge is one that is facing all High Plains growers. With his connections on the National Corn Growers Association, Colorado Corn and U.S. Grains Council there has been optimism throughout the High Plains region, and growers reported in many regions that yields were surprisingly good in light of some of the moisture challenges.

Even as he looks ahead for the 2022 season he remains optimistic.

“I don’t know a single farmer who isn’t optimistic. If they weren’t they would quit,” he quipped. “We are the eternal optimists and I’m optimistic about prices next year. I see December futures looking really good.”

He plans to forward contract and take advantage of the favorable prices as he believes it is an opportunity for him to lock in some profit for the next growing season.

Lefever encourages growers who have questions or concerns to stay in contact with their local, state and national commodity organizations that are working on their behalf. All the organizations want to see growers have success.

“We are all tied together,” he said.

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Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].