By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express
---- — Yields from local corn and soybean fields may turn out to be better than expected, despite a July-August drought.
Tracy Gathman, General Manager of Two Rivers Co-op, said it is still early in the harvest season, but what he has seen thus far has produced mixed results.
“I think when we get all said and done, it’s going to be a pretty decent crop,” Gathman said. Even though rainfall was limited, the moderate temperatures throughout the summer has helped. When intense heat hit local crops in late August and early September, the crops had already passed the portion of the growing season in which the heat could have caused damage. Some crops may be better than others, but it is dependent upon when they were planted.
Corwin Fee said his fields have been really dry, but his crops are doing better than he expected. He believes his fields will yield 130-150 bushels an acre. In the year we’ve had, he said that is not bad. The moisture on his corn is reasonable. His beans are dry, but the stems are wet and difficult to combine.
“We were probably one of the driest locations in the state,” Fee said.
With the drought, crops planted before May, when Marion County experienced an unusual snowstorm early in the month, may have been affected. Heavy rainfall in the county on Oct. 4 was expected to delay the harvest for a few days.
Prices farmers will see for their harvests were uncertain at the time of the interviews. The partial government shutdown means that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) might not produce a report for October. This report includes information on how crops in the southern hemisphere fared, which will have an effect on demand and price for Iowa corn and beans. Gathman said corn was at 4-4.25 and beans were at 12.25-12.50. A weather event elsewhere in the world could affect overseas’ harvests and raise prices, but until the USDA produces a report, to give the industry an indication of what will happen, prices will remain flat.
“We need to see some demand,” Gathman said.
The shutdown means that CRP and other payments from the federal government may also be in jeopardy.
“I’m guessing they’re going to put a freeze on that,” Fee said. Fee and Gathman do not believe that external happenings – outside of the federal government – will be enough to put any local farmers out of business. Fee said there might be concern for the stability of an operation if it includes these federal payments as part of their cash flow.
There is also concern about the expiration of the “Farm Bill,” of which 80 percent is tied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps). The House and Senate have not been able to reach an agreement on the “Farm Bill.” The House passed a version of the bill that cut SNAP out.
Fee believes SNAP is an important part of the “Farm Bill,” because it provides an incentive for lawmakers from urban areas, who might be ignorant bout farming or otherwise not care about farmers, to support the bill’s passage. Without a “Farm Bill,” farmers could be left unprotected from disasters affecting their businesses, as well as the world’s food supply. If disagreements on the “Farm Bill” persist, Fee believes there will be a problem.
“That would be very detrimental to farming,” Fee said. He added that many received crop insurance payments the past couple of years. As an example, he said input costs for a farmer could be as much as $700-800 per acre planted, and without crop insurance, the operation could lose $200-300 per acre.
Gathman believes farmers will be “all right” this year. There should be plenty of storage space available for crops as well. Most bins are empty in the area.
Watch for farm traffic
Gathman, and the Iowa State Patrol, want to remind drivers of the importance of being aware of slow-moving farm vehicles on local roads this harvest season. Gathman has seen many farm-related accidents occur on Highway 163, and most of them can be attributed to distracted drivers. He asks drivers to slow down, take it easy and be aware that, while traveling down the highway, the possibility exists of running into farm equipment.