From staff reports
— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) What a difference a wet and cooler-than-normal summer has made for Alabama corn farmers.
Several years ago, agriculture officials and farmers were saying it was getting increasingly difficult to grow corn in Alabama because of a persistent drought and hot summers.
Farmers are now finishing up harvesting what they are predicting will be a record corn crop. Farmers say this year's bountiful crop is because of favorable weather for growing corn this summer. Department of Agriculture statistics show that 330,000 acres of corn were planted and farmers say much of that crop is turning out well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that Alabama corn farmers this year will produce at least 145 bushels of corn per acre, compared to 98 bushels an acre in 2012, which some farmers said was a pretty good year for them. Agriculture officials said the previous record was set in 2004, when Alabama farmers produced 123 bushels per acre.
Alabama Agriculture Secretary John McMillan said it's good to hear farmers talking about good news for a change, after having previously looked at "long faces" when he met with farmers. McMillan attributed the good crop to a variety of factors, including the good weather, technology and increased irrigation.
Hassie Brooks, program director at the Alabama Department of Agriculture, said the increased production could also be attributed to improved farming techniques and the type of seeds that farmers are now using.
McMillan said the weather through much of the growing cycle for corn was good, but that the wet weather in the spring made it hard for some farmers to get in the fields and plant their crops.
One thing that has helped the corn crop, the agriculture commissioner said, was that while much of the year has been wet, it has been dry in recent weeks when farmers needed to get in the fields and harvest the crop,
"This is going to be an excellent corn crop for the state of Alabama," said Shep Morris, who farms about 3,200 acres of corn in Macon and Montgomery counties.
He said he expects his crop of corn this year will end up being about 160 bushels per acre. He said most years he produces about 135 to 140 bushels per acre.
While the rain helped make for a better crop this year, Morris said it also caused some problems for him and other farmers.
"It was very challenging to make a crop this year because of the heavy rains," Morris said.
The rain was heavy in some parts of the state and caused a disaster declaration to be issues for some counties. McMillan said effects of the rains were good and bad, because it helped some crops like corn while hurting others, like those who produce hay.
"Until recently it has been too wet for them to get in the field and bale the hay," McMillan said.
Stanley Walters of Linden grows about 700 acres of corn in Marengo, Hale, Dallas and Perry counties,
He said his farms have produced about 150 bushels of corn per acre and the quality has been "excellent."
Walters said the rain has not totally made up for a couple of years when his crop was poor because of drought.
"I doubt it made up for it, but it helps," Walters said.