SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture named Illinois Friday as the country’s leading producer of soybeans and second-largest corn producer last year.
The department said that Illinois farmers harvested 462 million bushels of soybeans in 2013, which is a 20 percent increase over 2012. Corn production was 2.1 billion bushels, which is 63 percent more than 2012’s drought-impacted crop and more than any state other than Iowa.
Farmers in Iowa harvested 2.16 billion bushels in 2013.
The release of the final 2013 crop production figures came as farmers face uncertainty with shifting crop prices. Corn rallied after the government reduced its estimate for the size of last year’s crop and lowered its projection for corn supplies.
The price of the grain has slumped since last spring when the agriculture department first projected that farmers would produce a record harvest.
The USDA cut its estimate for last year’s crop by 64 million bushels to 13.9 billion bushels. Traders had been expecting a crop of about 14.1 billion. The corn supply projection dropped by 161 million bushels to 1.6 billion bushels.
“This should change the whole dynamic of the market now,” said Mike Zuzolo, president of Global Commodity Analytics. Corn “supply is going to be harder to get.”
Falling corn prices and questions about ethanol demand could lead Illinois farmers to plant fewer acres of corn this year. The shift could lead to more acreage being dedicated to soybeans.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol required to be blended into the nation’s fuel, which could weaken demand for corn. The corn-based fuel currently uses up to 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop.
The president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association called the proposed EPA rule unwarranted and short-sighted.
“The rule would lower demand even further and that’s flat-out bad news for family farmers and their communities,” Gary Hudson said.
Farmer Ross Pauli of Edwards said he was worried that the EPA proposal, if approved, would hurt the farm economy. He’s urging other farmers to share their views with lawmakers.
“It’s a case of bad timing,” Pauli said. “Now when we have excess corn and these (ethanol) plants built, they want to cut back on production.”
Illinois currently has 14 ethanol plants online, which the Corn Growers Association says makes it one of the top five producers of corn-based ethanol in the country.
Pauli is planning to plant less corn this year on his 650 acres.
“I will still plant more corn than soybeans but the percentage will be 60 percent corn to 40 percent soybeans,” he said. “Last year it was probably about 65 percent corn.”
Soybean prices have also dipped, but to a lesser extent than corn.
University of Illinois economist Darrel Good doesn’t anticipate a huge shift in the crops.
“I do expect some cutback of corn acres and I think we’ll see a tick up in soybean acres,” Good said. “But, at this point, I look for a fairly minor adjustment.”
Staff Writer Chris Lusvardi contributed to this report.