While crop damage from an extensive Midwestern drought is still being assessed, many growers in Alabama and the Southeast are seeing the potential for above-average yields this year.

“The full extent of drought damage in the Midwestern U.S. remains to be seen, with some of the actual numbers being lower than USDA estimates,” says Max Runge, Auburn University Extension economist.

“Eighty percent of the United States is in some kind of drought, and 47 percent of the state of Alabama remains in some type of drought designation.”

But it isn’t as bad as it could be, said Runge during the recent East Alabama Crops Tour. “We’ve got some moisture out there, though for some growers it may be a little late this year. But overall, it looks pretty good.”

Alabama’s current estimate for corn yield is about 85 bushels per acre, compared with 114 bushels last year, he says. “We’ve still got a long ways to go with soybeans, and they’ll benefit from rainfall, but we’re about on track to be where we were last year with a state average of about 33 bushels per acre.”

In south Alabama, some growers were harvesting corn at the first part of August and then planting soybeans. That’s probably not a bad risk, says Runge.

Alabama’s peanut crop is looking a little better than last year, and cotton looks about the same. So Alabama’s crops don’t look too bad. Overall in the U.S., corn is expected to be down by about 13 percent from last year.”

Growers have seen record-high prices for corn and soybeans, not only record-high for this year’s crop but contract-high for next year, says Runge.

“It’s not too early for growers to be thinking about 2013. I don’t know how much higher prices might go, but it’ll be interesting to look at what these markets will do.”

There might be more upward movement in some crop prices, says Runge. “I wouldn’t be in a big rush to price anything. I’ve talked to several people over the past couple of weeks who said they booked corn at $5.50, but it doesn’t look like such a good price right now.

“Wheat was at about $8.60. Typically, the price of wheat tops out at about September, and then it moves down as we get closer to harvest, so you might want to go ahead price some of that.”