Another blast of bad weather in mid-January added to the winter woes of Florida corn growers, and high prices into spring will be the likely result.

Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op hopes one of its Homestead, Fla., area growers is up and running again by Feb. 1, said Geoff Taft, assistant sales manager.

That could, however, be complicated by rainy, windy weather on Jan. 15, which did additional damage in Homestead above and beyond the torrential December rains, Taft said.

Even if the grower is able to ramp up production again in February, corn prices could stay at or near their current levels until Pioneer’s spring production in Belle Glade.

On Jan. 19, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $20.95 for wire-bound crates of 4½ dozen yellow, white or bicolor corn from central and South Florida.

“Our biggest homestead grower is down about 50%,” Taft said.

A second Homestead grower for Pioneer only expects to harvest about 10% of its crop this season, he said.

Winter corn is always a challenge, said Brett Bergmann, president of South Bay, Fla.-based Branch: A Family of Farms, and this year it’s even more challenging than usual.

“The product in South Florida has been through a lot this winter. We had heavy rains the first two weeks of December. I think it will be a precarious winter.”

What Bergmann called “splotchy” weather could continue into mid-March. Much of the product shipping from Homestead had quality and size issues.

Tom Nicholson, salesman for Boca Raton, Fla.-based Ben Litowich & Son Inc., said it could be mid-March before corn markets start to return to something resembling normal.

“This winter’s rain was worse than having freezes. With freezes, you still have product available.”

Plantings were starting to rebound when the wind and rain came Jan. 15, Nicholson said.

“Basically anything that was standing up is now lying down.”  

 
Pioneer was sourcing some Florida corn from other than Homestead in the second half of January, but only enough to fill tray pack orders, Taft said.

The company looked at supplementing its Florida winter crop with corn from Mexico, but freight issues made that impractical, he said.

Bergmann said “quite a bit” of corn was coming up from Mexico in the second half of January, though Branch wasn’t sourcing from south of the border.