- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s corn crop was hit harder by the summer drought than farmers expected, federal and state agriculture officials said yesterday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department lowered its Maryland corn production forecast by 2.4 million bushels to almost 40 million, or 34 percent smaller than last year’s harvest.

Julie Klapproth, director of the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service, said the report reflected “bone dry” conditions on the Eastern Shore, where most of the state’s corn is grown.

“Basically, the weather didn’t improve” from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, when the latest farmer survey was taken, she said. “We got rain in most of the state in mid-August but it just wasn’t enough that growers felt it would give their crops any advantage.”

As corn harvesting on the Eastern Shore begins, some farmers are reporting smaller yields than expected, she said.

David Clark, who grows corn and soybeans on about 400 acres in Queen Anne’s County, said it is a bad year for both crops.

“There were spotty rains in places — some places got it and some didn’t — and we’re in the place where we didn’t get it, so we’re hurting,” he said.

The Agriculture Department also projected a 34 percent decline in Maryland’s soybean harvest, to 10.5 million bushels from 15.8 million last year. The forecast was unchanged from the September report.

In Delaware, corn production will drop 40 percent to 14 million bushels from 23.3 million in 2006, the Agriculture Department said. Soybean production will decline 32 percent to 3.7 million bushels from 5.5 million. Both numbers were unchanged from August.

Both crops are used for livestock feed and increasingly for biodiesel production.

The Agriculture Department designated Maryland a drought disaster area Aug. 22, potentially making some farmers and businesses eligible for low-interest loans. Delaware is seeking such a declaration.

Nationally, corn production will reach a healthy 13.3 billion bushels, up 254 million from the August estimate, the Agriculture Department said. The agency trimmed its soybean production forecast by 6 million bushels to 2.6 billion bushels.

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