Posted By Cindy May 7, 2013
Nothing like a little snow in May to really slow down a planter!
This photo from Minnesota was posted last week on the Case IH Facebook page. Despite the snow, Minnesota farmers did manage to get two percent of their corn crop in the ground last week, but they should have over half of it planted by now.
Nearly 50% of the crop nationwide should be planted by now in an average year, but only 12% was planted as of Sunday according to USDA. Last year at this time, nearly 70% of the crop was planted.
There was more progress last week than in recent weeks, even in states that saw more white stuff on the ground. Minnesota, Michigan, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin all finally got a few points on the board after making no progress in the previous weeks. Illinois, Indiana and Iowa move up a few notches from 1-2% to 7-8%. But, again, all should be at or nearing the halfway point by now.
Emergence is far behind normal as well with 11 of the 18 top corn producing states showing no corn above ground yet. Just three percent of the crop has emerged compared to 29% last year and 15% average.
Not to worry yet, however. “It is still early in the planting season and slow progress at this point should not cause alarm,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, a grower in Iowa. “Modern farming technology has dramatically reduced the time needed for farmers to plant a large number of acres, and this means we can begin planting much later if need be.”
And a little cooperation from Mother Nature would help.
Posted By Cindy April 22, 2013
This spring is an example of what Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Roseannadanna on the old Saturday Night Live shows used to say: “It just goes to show you, it’s always something! If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”
That’s what farming is all about when it comes to the weather. Last spring’s weather was picture perfect for planting and fast emergence – this year, not so much. By summer of 2012, the crops were wilting from heat and lack of moisture – now fields in some areas are flooding. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
“Virtually no field work accomplished across the heart of the Midwest” this past week, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. Corn planting as of April 21 was just four percent nationwide, compared to 26% this time last year and 16% for the five year average. I took the photo in this post on Sunday off I-35 in DeKalb county Missouri. The Show Me State is showing 13% of the corn planted, compared to nearly 50% this time last year and about 30% for the average.
Illinois and Indiana managed to get 1% planted during the week, a far cry from last year when Illinois had 56% and Indiana had 43%. Ohio stayed stagnant at 1%, compared to over 30% this time last year. “Still haven’t seen a single field planted in some of the other major states,” said Rippey. That includes Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Colorado. But, normally those states should only be about 10% or less by now so there is still plenty of time to catch up.
The good news is that the moisture is much needed and that should be a big help whenever the crop does get in the ground. Warmer temperatures will also be helping the soil temps heat up a bit.
Posted By Cindy February 27, 2013
Most of us know where the drought hit the hardest last year, but it’s always more interesting to see it in living color.
The University of Illinois’ FarmDoc Daily did just that by comparing state corn yields last year with trend yields, showing how much yields were reduced in the most drought-stricken areas. You can click on the map below to see a larger version.
The map highlights how the lowest yields were in Kentucky (47 percent of trend) and Missouri (53 percent) and Indiana and Illinois came in at about 62 percent of trend. Much of the rest of Corn Belt saw yields around 75 percent of the trend line. Minnesota and North Dakota had yields close to trend, while most states in the Southeast had above trend yields. Georgia was 24% above trend and South Carolina was 31%, which would be great if those states were not generally ranked in the bottom half of corn growing states. New York and Maryland grow more corn than Georgia and South Carolina.
University of Illinois ag economist Gary Schnitkey, who did the map, says as bad as it was, the drought could have been worse.
“In some senses, though, the US dodged a bullet with the 2012 drought,” said Schnitkey. “Much lower total supplies would have resulted had the center of the drought occurred in eastern Iowa and northern Illinois. A center here would have impacted all of the corn-belt in a much worse way, potentially causing the western corn-belt to have as low of yields as the eastern corn-belt. As it actually occurred, Iowa and other western corn-belt state were not as badly hit as could have been the case.”
Read his summary here.
Posted By Cathryn February 22, 2013
Most consumers associate the cold, wintery weather that swept the country this week with staying indoors and keeping warm. Envisioning farming as a sunny day, warm weather gig, they often forget that farmers work to care for their land and livestock 365 days a year.
As snow and ice reign down on the roads, keeping kids home from school and adults stuck in traffic, many farmers are also vigilantly protecting their farms and their animals from the dangerous conditions.
Today, Corn Commentary features a guest blog post and a letter to the editor penned by CommonGround volunteers about how they care for cattle when the temperatures drop. Consumers worried about animal welfare can take heart. These farm women are taking action out of concern for their cattle, just like farmers across the country.
First, Sara Ross, a CommonGround Iowa volunteer, walks blog readers through what her and her husband do to prepare for a winter storm.
Preparing the Cattle for the Big Snowstorm
Sara and her husband, Kevin, prepare their cattle for an oncoming snow.
Everyone’s been talking about it all week…the big snow storm. First it was suppose to start Wednesday night then it got pushed back to Thursday morning then Thursday around noon. I’ve heard anywhere from 6-18 inches of snow forecasted. Normally it would be all fun and games to be snowed in, but since we have cattle, we had to get them prepared for the storm.
Kevin wanted to move the cows from across the road, where they were out on cornstalks, to our side of the road where they would have more protection and be easier to feed and water. We are a few weeks away from calving, but you never know when a big snow storm hits what will happen!
So, first thing this morning Kevin and I headed outside to get the cows moved to our side of the road.
To read the full post, click here.
CommonGround Nebraska volunteer Joan Ruskamp, who is well familiar with many of the questions consumers have about farming in the winter. She penned the editorial piece below To help answer questions she had seen in local papers.
Baby, it’s cold outside…but there’s still plenty to do on the farm
About this time every year, I begin to get surprised looks from people when I talk about all the activities happening on my family’s farm near Dodge, Neb. Together with my husband, we feed cattle and raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa. While the crops may not require a great deal of attention in the winter months, animal care on our farm is a top priority 365 days a year.
One of my many responsibilities includes walking through the cattle every morning, no matter the weather conditions, to make sure each animal is healthy. If an animal is sick and needs to be treated with antibiotics, we always adhere to label use under the supervision of our veterinarian. We also adhere to strict withdrawal times, or a set number of days that must pass between the last antibiotic treatment and the animal entering the food supply. And even though cattle have hair coats designed to handle living outdoors, in the cold winter months, we take extra care to make sure they are as comfortable as possible.
We provide extra bedding and windbreaks to help block the extreme cold. And in addition to shoveling our driveway during a snowstorm, we must remove or pile snow in the pens so that the cattle have dry places to lie down. We also must make sure that even during a snowstorm; the cattle are fed at their normal times with continuous access to water.
So, even though the winter weather might make you want to stay bundled up inside, know that farmers are braving the elements to make sure the animals are well cared for – because healthy animals equal healthy food for our families.
Joan Ruskamp, farmer, Dodge, Neb.
Posted By Cindy February 20, 2013
The good news is that the overall drought area in the U.S. is continuing to decline from week to week. The bad news is that 2013 may be even drier than 2012 was.
The latest U.S. drought monitor shows less than 56% of the country in drought now, the lowest point since last July. “It’s also a decline of 5.36% since the beginning of the year and we’re down almost 10% from the peak in 2012,” said USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. “It is noticeable change but the problem is we’ve really been struggling to chip away at the drought right at the core.”
“The forecast for this season is that in fact, we are predicting drier conditions,” said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing last week.
Pulwarty emphasized that the big problem last year was the heat exacerbating the drought. “The major issue in the Midwest and the Southwest, Colorado Basin in particular, is that we are having back-to-back dry years and a third year of that puts our systems completely under stress,” he said.
Indiana farmer Anngie Steinbarger was one of four producers on a panel who explained just how bad the drought was last year. “Our average yields are 150 bushels for corn,” she said, explaining that their decision to add an irrigation pivot on 35 acres of really sandy soil is what helped them get a crop last year. “Under the pivot was close to 200 bushels per acre and outside of the pivot was 10 bushels per acre,” said Steinbarger, adding that “The number one barrier to increasing our yields is lack of water.”
Irrigation helped the Steinbargers meet their contracts but it was crop insurance that helped them survive. “We paid a substantial premium for crop insurance and that decision is keeping us in business for the 2013 crop year,” Steinbarger said.
Posted By Cindy January 10, 2013
It is now official that 2012 was the hottest year on record, according to the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) State of the Climate report.
2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.
According to NOAA, 2012 was record setting for 19 states, including several in the corn belt such as Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota.
While it was the hottest year on record, it was only the 15th driest year, with an average of 26.57 inches of precipitation nationwide. “At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions.”
The drought is continuing over into the new year, with USDA this week designating nearly 600 counties in 14 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. In 2012, USDA designated 2,245 counties in 39 states as disaster areas due to drought, or 71 percent of the United States.
Bottom line – we still need lots of rain and some cooler temps would be nice too.
Posted By Cindy January 2, 2013
We survived a devastating drought and even the end of the world in 2012, only to be thrown off the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013 while lawmakers stalled on a short term fix that would also include an extension of the current farm bill for nine months. Starting the new year off with this kind of uncertainty makes it hard to make predictions, but USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber gave it a try.
“Everyone’s anticipating a large amount of corn to be planted this year. No reason why we wouldn’t see similar levels to last year, if not a little higher,” said Glauber, who adds that he still expects to see lots of soybeans planted as well. Assuming “more return to normal yields” and similar plantings to 2012, “certainly would allow us to rebuild stocks in a hurry,” he said.
Of course, that is assuming more normal weather – which is exactly what everyone was expecting this time last year. Still Glauber is optimistic about farm income for 2013, even though he expects moderation in crop prices which should help livestock producers. “We’re still expecting strong prices for beef, pork, poultry and dairy and moderating feed prices should help a lot,” said Glauber.
Again – that is going on the assumption that the weather in 2013 has to be better than what it was in 2012. Normal would be good.
Posted By Cathryn October 23, 2012
With harvest nearing 90 percent completion, many news stories address the impact of the drought in the past tense. The drought hit farmers. The drought impacted yields. The drought of 2012 did this or that.
According to climatologists and meteorologists who know what is needed to grow, farmers across the Midwest should be praying for nine inches.
Why is that the magic number?
According to Iowa State Climatologist Harry Hillaker and DTN Senior Meteorologist Bryce Anderson, the areas of the Corn Belt still categorized in some form of drought required nine inches of rain before the new year to ensure sufficient soil moisture for spring planting in 2013.
While these experts note that the likelihood of this happening is statistically slim, some areas of Illinois have gotten more than two inches of rain in the past 24 hours. With a few days of showers in the five-day forecast, some hold out hope for clouds on the horizon.
Many farmers have already begun purchasing next spring’s inputs and, for some, the risk of continued drought seems significant enough to factor into planting decisions. Yet, even for those with a less optimistic outlook, new varieties of drought resistant corn developed through biotechnology offer hope unimaginable only one generation ago.
“I know when I had my first drought in 1977 that we actually had three bushels to the acre,” said Nevada, Iowa farmer Bill Couser in a recent interview with the Kansas City Star. “If I would have had the hybrids today back then, we would have never had that kind of a drought, because with the hybrids today it’s just amazing what they’re pulling through.”
Whether more rains come or farmers consider corn designed to tolerate a drought, U.S. corn farmers are preparing to put 2012 in the past, resiliently looking ahead toward the 2013 planting season. Hope remains that Mother Nature may yet give them what they need, but America’s farmers will be ready to meet the challenge with the help of technology should the drought persist.
Posted By Cindy September 6, 2012
As the corn harvest takes off way ahead of normal, yet another consequence of the epic 2012 drought is rearing its very ugly head – aflatoxin, which is caused by a fungus that just loves the kind of weather we’ve had this summer.
“Hot, dry conditions actually promote the fungus Aspergillus flavus,” said USDA plant pathologist Dr. Kitty Cardwell. “When the plant is stressed, particularly high heat stress, it really disposes the crop to be vulnerable to this fungus getting into the grain. Then when it’s harvested and put in storage for awhile, the toxin starts building up in the grain.”
Reports of aflatoxin have already been coming in from states including Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana. Last week the Iowa Department of Agriculture started requiring aflatoxin screening and testing of milk and is also instituting a state-wide corn sampling program. “It will show up in the milk if aflatoxin affected corn is used for feed for dairy cattle,” said Dr. Cardwell, noting that there is zero tolerance for aflatoxin when it comes to food that can be fed to infants and young children.
While there are normally reports of aflatoxin every year in some areas, Dr. Cardwell expects that some farmers who have never had the problem will be facing it this year. She offers some advice for growers to self test for the fungus. “Take 10 kernels and put them in a moist paper towel for a day or so,” she said. “If what grows out of the kernel is bright, pea green, that will be Aspergillus flavus.” If all of them turn bright green, it’s time to get your corn tested at a lab.
Posted By Cathryn July 30, 2012
Can you imagine the feeling of waking up in the morning and realizing that it would be 13 months before you got another paycheck? The drought has farm families across the Midwest pondering just that as relentlessly hot, dry conditions turn the nation’s heartland from a breadbasket into an oven.
In a recent story from Voice of America, DuBois, Ill. farmer Alan Bowers Jr. explained what many family farmers in the central and southern Corn Belt feel as they watch the crop that they invested time, sweat and money in this spring wilt. Blowing away, the corn becomes part of the dust that normally yields the most abundant crop in the world.
Using a simple, yet eloquent analogy, DuBois compared his corn and soybean crop to a paycheck. Drawing on this common idea, he places in stark perspective how dire the situation facing many farm families may seem.
This candid look at farming stands in contrast to the multitude of mainstream news stories promoting the fallacious idea that farmers do not care about the crop. The emotional toll of seeing hard work wither due to circumstances well beyond human control aside, crop insurance ensures that family farmers like DuBois can make ends meet until the next season. It ensures that natural disasters do not cause our nation’s agricultural sector to disintegrate.
Crop insurance places exists because Americans value their abundant, affordable, safe supply of food and the farm families who produce it. Americans understand the integral role these hard working individualists play in the fabric of our national character and in our economy. Maintaining their ability to farm next year when confronted with such enormous, unstoppable obstacles makes sense. Understanding their frustration in watching the crop slip away does too.
As drought conditions persist, remember that the people who grow food, the people who raise it and those who eat it all must endure these trying conditions together. Looking toward one another with understanding and compassion can ease the stress placed on one another, even if it cannot ease the stress placed on the crops.