Jay Sullivan, president of the North Carolina Corn Growers Association, says he plans to plant about the same number of corn acres as last year. “Price is always important, but you have to look at crop rotations and other factors, too,” he said.

Sullivan, who farms in Samson County, N.C., with his son, says he is optimistic about the 2014 season.  “We know light, or lack of light, is a limiting factor in corn production, and last year we got so much rain and had so many days of cloudy weather, but we still produced a pretty good corn crop.

“I have to believe 2014 will be a better year weather-wise than last year. So if we do basically the same thing, I think we have a good chance to have a much better crop.  Had we not got so much rain and cloudy weather on our farm last year, I think we would have produced one of the best, if not the best, corn crop ever,” he said.

“We had a lot of rain—too much rain in many areas of the state, and statewide we had a well-above-average number of cloudy days. None of that is conducive to high corn yields, which tells me the best is yet to come,” says North Carolina State University corn specialist Ronnie Heiniger.

He stresses this year will be the first in the past few in which growers will have to scrutinize every nickel and dime that goes into a corn crop, because they are likely to be growing $4.50 to $5 corn versus $7 a bushel and up.

How much price will impact corn acreage next year is a hotly debated question. Heiniger contends the opportunity to grow higher yields can offset some of the loss of revenue because of price reductions for corn.  “If you’re growing corn for $5 an acre or less, you better be sure you can produce significantly more than 100 bushels per acre,” he adds.

With the per-acre cost of growing corn in the $500 per acre range in most farming operations in the V-C Region, even the state record yield of 142 bushels per acre would be marginally profitable in some grain farming operations, especially those with significant costs for land rent.

Heiniger, who is also widely known among Southeast farmers for his prowess in predicting weather cycles, says the neutral pattern that has been in place over the past year appears likely to stay in place for at least part of the 2014 growing season.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If corn growers can get their crop planted on time and get some moderation in weather pattern, it could provide rain and times in which its needed most for corn and could help growers significantly improve yields in 104, he speculates.