Midwest drought mixed bag for N.J. farmers, Del. poultry industry

    Crops are dying in the field in the Midwest due to drought, sending the price of corn and soybeans skyrocketing nationwide.

    Rain has been more generous in New Jersey than in the heartland, so farmers here are set to gain from these high prices if the weather holds until harvest.

    Michael Brooks with Dusty Lane Farms in Elmer, N.J., said last week he was getting almost $8 a bushel for corn at his local grain elevator.

    “At planting time, we were in the ballpark of $5 per bushel,” Brooks said. “That increase in price will really help us out.”

    Of course those high prices are not good news for everyone. Brooks, like many area farmers, sells to poultry company Perdue. The poultry industry dominates agriculture in Delaware.

    About three-quarters of the cost of raising a chicken goes to feed, mostly corn and soy, and higher input costs cannot always be entirely passed on to consumers, said Bill Satterfield, director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Incorporated.

    “The chicken industry last year faced record high corn costs,” Satterfield said. “Across the nation about half a dozen chicken companies filed for bankruptcy or were sold to somebody else. We may have to go through another round of that consolidation and closing.”

    As New Jersey Farm Bureau director Peter Furey put it, “It’s the old saying in agriculture –one man’s misfortune is the other man’s opportunity.”

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