A farmer works a field during the 2016 harvest season in this file photo. Prices for corn and soybeans harvested during the 2018 growing season are expected to go up by about 50 cents per bushel. However, a 25-percent tariff on soybeans proposed by China could result in a significant hit to Indiana’s agriculture sector if it goes into effect. (The Commercial Review/Nathan Rubbelke)
A farmer works a field during the 2016 harvest season in this file photo. Prices for corn and soybeans harvested during the 2018 growing season are expected to go up by about 50 cents per bushel. However, a 25-percent tariff on soybeans proposed by China could result in a significant hit to Indiana’s agriculture sector if it goes into effect. (The Commercial Review/Nathan Rubbelke)
Even with an unseasonably wet and cold spring the outlook for corn and soybean producers is positive for the 2018 growing season, but the possibility of sizable Chinese tariffs looms in the distance.

Prices for both corn and soybeans should be up for the growing season that is about to begin, a Purdue University agricultural economist said this week.

“The prospects are somewhat improved for farm incomes this year,” said Chris Hurt, who has been with Purdue since 1981 and specializes in family farms, pricing strategies and market futures. “We’re looking for prices to be higher for the 2018 crop.

“Starting with the ’18 crop, ’19, ’20 crop, we’re continuing to look for some follow through to improvement in those years.”

The larger jump, in terms of percentage, this year will come in corn prices.

The average price for Indiana corn for the 2017 crop was $3.50. Hurt said projections show that number expected to go to near $4, an increase of more than 14 percent on the high end.

Soybean prices are also expected to tick up by about 50 cents. If that happens, that means they would be up just over 5 percent from 2017 (an average of $9.50) to about $10 for the 2018 crop.

A variety of factors play in to those increases, including a dry growing season in South America.

“There has been a drought in Argentina,” said Hurt. “They’re into their harvest right now. That’s reduced their size of crop. And that’s really helped particularly the (American) soybean prices.”

As a result, soybeans are expected to overtake corn in terms of acres planted nationwide this year. (More soybean acres than corn acres were planted in Indiana already in 2017.)

The improved pricing outlook comes despite a first half of April that has in many ways felt like early March.

Jay County received more than an inch of rain over the weekend. And snow fell Monday afternoon with wind chills in the low 20s, just four days after the high temperature spiked to near 80 degrees.

Those weather patterns have been seen across the state, leading to a slow start to the growing season. As of Sunday, a United States Department of Agriculture report showed that no corn or soybeans have been planted in Indiana.

That’s not an issue so far, as the five-year average is just 1 percent and last year’s total at the same time was 3 percent. But temperatures are expected to remain relatively cool through at least next week.

“A week ago, I think there wasn’t a lot of concern,” said Hurt. “If we go another week now, you get out towards the 25th of the month of April, then you start to really get a little bit worried. They’d like at least to be doing field work right now …”

Even if the ground dries, soil temperatures could remain a problem. They are currently around 35 degrees at a 4-inch depth, and would need to be in the 50- to 55-degree range for farmers to feel comfortable planting.