The volatile spring weather in 2013 has clouded the future of this year's corn crop and the outlook for meat producers.

Much of the outlook for the meat industry depends on the weather in the next couple of months and its impact on the corn crop. While the spring rains have erased the Midwest drought of 2012, the May rains and cold spring are now casting doubt on the future of the 2013 corn crop, according to the combined weather and crop outlook presented at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, June 5.

Steve Meyer, PhD, of Paragon Economics, said that if there is a decent corn crop - which depends on some hot, dry weather in June and rains starting up again in late July - the pork industry could return to profitability in 2014, and the chicken industry will see the dramatic growth it is poised for. The beef industry, by contrast, will take years to recover from the 2012 drought. 

"Midwest corn is once again in a situation where weather will have a big impact on the crop," said Meyer. "If things dry out and we get rain in the late summer, we'll have a good harvest and $4 corn. If things go badly, we could have $7 corn."

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A decent corn crop - a 145 to 150 bushel per acre average - will keep corn prices at current levels allowing pork producers to return to profitability. The chicken industry is ramping up production, and with current high prices could see a very good year - if corn prices hold at current levels. "The chicken producers can control production levels much more quickly than everyone else, which works to their advantage," said Meyer. 

The second speaker in the luncheon program, Dr. Elwynn Taylor of Iowa State University, gave his forecast for the short and long-term weather. His short-term forecast was not overly optimistic, saying there are signs that the La Niña phenomenon that drove 2012's dry summer may repeat itself. That could lead to a hot, dry summer. "The volatile conditions we are seeing aren't conducive to good crops," he said. 

Taylor predicted that we are headed into a 25-year cycle of more volatile swings in weather from year to year. He showed patterns from the last 90 years that showed a cycle of 18 years of predictable weather, followed by a 25-year period of large year-to-year swings in weather. He said 2012 was the 19th year in the predictable cycle, and he thinks it marked the beginning of the volatile cycle.

"Risk management is going to be very important for all of agriculture in the coming years," Taylor said.