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Crop income up despite '12 drought

Despite a major drought, crop income increased in 2012, according to an annual report issued by the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management at Mitchell Technical Institute.

Reports from about 140 farms enrolled in the program show that income from crops rose 9.3 percent between 2011 and 2012 and crop enterprises accounted for 50 percent of total farm income.

Program instructor Chris Downs said 35 percent of that crop income came from sales, 13.3 percent from crop insurance and 2.1 percent from government payments.

"A substantial crop inventory at the beginning of 2012, coupled with more crop acreage and higher prices associated with the drought helped bolster the crop sales last year," Downs said.

Most of the increase from crop insurance payments came from farming operations south of Interstate 90, Downs said. That's where some of the most severe drought conditions were located.

The report noted that livestock sales accounted for 45 percent of average farm income and 5 percent of income was derived from other, miscellaneous enterprises.

The top crops for 2012, in order of profitability, were:

• Corn silage, with a return of $379 per acre.

• Winter wheat, $309/acre.

• Corn, $305/acre.

• Spring wheat, $145/acre.

• Soybeans, at $117/acre.

• Alfalfa, $86/acre.

Except for winter wheat, crop yields were down in 2012 because of drought conditions.

• Winter wheat showed an average yield of 75.9 bushels per acre compared to 56 bushels per acre in 2011.

• Corn yields decreased from an average of 127 bushels per acre in 2011 to 87.1 bushels per acre in 2012.

• Soybeans yielded 27.3 bushels per acre, down from 36.1 bushels per acre in 2011.

• Alfalfa yielded 2.4 tons per acre, down from 3.4 tons per acre in 2011.

• Corn silage dropped to 7.1 tons per acre, from 16.4 tons per acre in 2011.

Report statistics show it cost South Dakota farmers $65 more per acre to raise corn in 2012 than it did in 2011 -- for an average total cost of $538 per acre for cash-rented ground.

Soybean inputs rose $50 per acre, to $372 an acre in 2012; and in 2012 farmers spent $368 per acre, or $90 more per acre, to raise winter wheat.

Alfalfa input costs increased $127 per acre in 2012 -- the most of any crop -- bringing the total cost to operate an acre of ground to $333 per acre.

Of 2012, Downs said it was "a challenging year for farmers in South Dakota, especially south of I-90 where the drought was the worst."

Maintaining profitability with assorted risk management practices will be the key to future agricultural success, he said.