The drought monitor for Nebraska from September 22 shows 100 percent of the state is either abnormally dry or under some form of drought. In fact, 73 percent of the state is under a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought (Figure 1). No doubt the drought will affect this year’s crop production with the impacts becoming better understood over the next few weeks as producers ramp up harvest. A week ago, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated 6 percent of the state’s corn crop and 5 percent of the soybean crop were harvested.
Figure 1. Nebraska Drought Monitor, September 22, 2022
USDA projections peg the average corn yield for Nebraska this year at 176 bushels per acre, 18 bushels (9 percent) less than last year’s average. The ProFarmer tour in August estimated an average corn yield of 164 bushels per acre, 30 bushels below last year. Other private sources estimate an average yield ranging between 176–179 bushels per acre. For soybeans, the USDA estimates an average yield of 52 bushels/acre, 11 bushels (17 percent) less than last year. And the ProFarmer tour estimated an average soybean yield of 53 bushels per acre.
The impacts of this year’s drought can be measured against “what might have been.” In other words, what might have yields been if the state had experienced a typical growing season (if such a thing exists?). Estimated trend yields for corn and soybeans this year based on past yields are 189 bushels per acre and 59 bushels respectively.
Nebraska corn production, then, given the various yield projections could be between 7-14 percent less than what might have been expected in a typical year and soybean production could be 8-9 percent less. Using the projected average farm price for corn from the USDA for the 2022 crop marketing year ($6.75/bushel), the value of this year’s crop could be between $866 million to $1.6 billion less compared to what might have been. And the value of soybean production could be $363-$445 million less based on a price of $14.35/bushel. Adding an estimated figure for the forgone value of wheat production—wheat production this year was 31 percent less than what might have been—the total loss in value to Nebraska’s corn, soybean, and wheat producers could range between $1.43 billion and $2.1 billion.
The above estimates make many assumptions and do not account for impacts to other crops like sugar beets, dry beans, sunflowers, grain sorghum, etc. However, the estimates can still provide a sense of the magnitude of the impacts of the drought on crop producers. The loss in crop value is occurring at the same time input costs rose substantially, further pressuring margins. Some of the lost revenue could be offset by indemnity payments from crop insurance. Over 90 percent of Nebraska’s crop acres are covered under some type of crop insurance. But don’t expect this year’s net farm income to match last year’s record level.