High grain prices over the past few years have put livestock producers in the Southeast in a perilous financial predicament that could be helped significantly by increasing corn production in the region, but unfortunately that has not happened in recent history.

Acreage of corn and other grain crops is up significantly, but growers continue to struggle to get continuous high yields from their crops.

Weather related problems have significantly impacted the ability to sustain high yields, and overall corn yields have generally declined slightly over the past decade or so in some Southeastern states.

Take the two largest corn-producing states, North Carolina and Georgia for example.

In 2011, Georgia corn growers produced 157 bushels per acre, which is near the national average. Georgia, unlike other Southeastern states, has a high percentage of its corn crop under irrigation.

In fact, irrigated corn acres in the state have gone up by more than 100,000 acres over the past decade. However, last year, corn yields dropped to 116 bushels per acre.

In North Carolina, yields were flip-flopped from Georgia, as growers produced 114 bushels of corn per acre last year, but only 84 bushels per acre in 2011.

The pattern of up and down yields produces uncertainty among corn growers and livestock producers alike. The result is a high percentage of corn used for livestock feed is brought into the region from other states.

In Virginia, Small Grains Specialist Wade Thomason says from 2000 to 2011, Virginia corn yields have declined by two bushels per year.

Over the past five years, corn yields in Virginia have averaged 102 bushels per acre.

In North Carolina, the five-year average stands at 106 bushels per acre.

Clearly these numbers fall significantly short of the national corn trend. Unfortunately, similar trends are evident in other Southeast corn producing states.

The National Corn Growers Coalition, established in 2008 by the National Corn Growers Association, makes a poignant case for the productivity of corn: “Farmers today grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s — on 20 percent less land. That is 13 million acres, or 20,000 square miles, twice the size of Massachusetts. The yield per acre has skyrocketed from 24 bushels in 1931 to 154 now, or a six-fold gain.