UNION COUNTY, N.C. - There are more than 45,000 acres of corn grown in Union County, and this year's yield is 30 percent higher than last year, which means more dollars in farmers' pockets.
Fields sit empty now after farmers harvested most of this year's corn crop over the past two weeks. A dry start to the year turned wetter by midsummer, keeping more acres of corn healthy.
An average year would yield 130 to 140 bushels of corn per acre. But this year, farmers harvested 170 to 200 bushels per acre.
And they're earning more money for each extra bushel. Severe drought in the Midwest decimated this year's crop, pushing up prices to nearly $8 per bushel. That's a 25 percent increase in one year.
“This year is a more favorable year. Previous years have not been as favorable,” Andrew Baucom said. “So it's sort of a balancing act."
The high price of corn is a catch-22. A majority of corn grown in Union County stays in the county for livestock and poultry feed. Farmer Travis Starnes grows 3,000 acres of corn, but he still has to buy more at market price to feed his 200,000 turkeys.
“For turkeys, the feed cost is much higher than it has been in the past, which is a problem. But it's great for the farmers,” Starnes said.
Even as local farmers earn more this year, the extra cost for animal feed could push up the price of meat for shoppers at the grocery store.
Planning for next year’s crop starts now. But most of the seeds for 2013 are coming from the Midwest, which means they may cost more. So this year's gain will likely be spent in next year's field.