BROOKSTON, Ind. — Growing popcorn isn’t for every farmer. But but for some, it’s a profitable part of their business.
“Growers can make a little bit more money with popcorn; however, it is more work,” said Rachel Foley, senior ag operations specialist at ConAgra at the Indiana Certified Crop Adviser Conference.
“It’s a food grade product, so there’s more documentation involved. And sanitation is very important.”
Farmers must sanitize the planter, seed tender, bins, combine, auger cart and trailers. Anything the popcorn comes in contact with needs to be carefully cleaned out.
Popcorn can be a very good fit for some growers, however.
“They don’t have to have the labor, trucks or bin space to grow the same amount of popcorn acres as they would dent corn,” Foley said.
Other nuances include the way popcorn is measured.
“We use pounds or per hundredweight instead of bushels for harvested grain,” Foley explained. “Typical popcorn yields are 4,500 to 6,500 pounds per acre.
“Popcorn is extremely heavy. New growers and truck drivers are always surprised by how heavy their truck is. Test weights are 65 to 70 pounds per bushel.”
Popcorn yield is greatly dependent on hybrid.
Almost all popcorn is raised under contract for a processor.
“Processors typically contract acres based on their demand for a given year,” Foley said. “Most companies offer some type of quality and/or moisture bonus.
“Popcorn is not an openly traded commodity. The price is based on No. 2 dent yellow corn. It’s company dependent whether they use variable or fixed pricing.”
Crop insurance for popcorn is available in 49 counties in Indiana through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are three main types: Yield Protection, Revenue Protection, or Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion.
“New growers have to use their county yield average until they establish their own Actual Production History,” Foley said. “Most of our growers do use some kind of crop insurance.”
Did You Know?
All U.S. grown popcorn is non-GMO.
“New growers sometimes ask when we’ll get Roundup Ready popcorn,” Foley said. “It’s probably not very likely. Customers both domestically and internationally like the non-GMO label.”