2019 takes area farmers from bad to worse
REGIONAL — At the end of 2018, University of Minnesota Extension Farm Business Management Educator David Bau said farmers had experienced the fifth consecutive year of losses on both corn and soybeans.
While there’s always optimism that the next year will be better, the reality is that as bad as 2018 was for farmers, 2019 was even worse.
A rapid snow melt merging with spring rains turned many farm fields into lakes starting in March, and a weather pattern that delivered rain, rain and more rain to already waterlogged soil made it impossible for farmers to plant some of their fields.
In late May, rural Okabena farmer Paul Henning told The Globe it was “wet, wet, wet,” as he faced decisions on whether to declare prevent plant on some of his acres.
At the time, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported 66% of the state’s corn crop was planted, with 35% of soybean acres planted — both well behind average.
In mid-August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that more than 19.4 million acres of agricultural land across the country could not be planted this year. Locally, the six counties of southwest Minnesota made up nearly 224,000 of those acres, while farmers in Lyon, Osceola and Dickinson counties reported 24,303 prevent plant acres.
Murray County had the highest prevent plant acreage at 62,250, most of which was through the central portion of the county. At the time the report was issued, Murray County Farm Service Agency Executive Director David Schreiber said it was still too wet in some areas for farmers to get into the fields.
Linda Stuckenbroker, FSA executive director for Cottonwood and Jackson counties, summed it up when she said, “It’s been a trying year.”
“We’re way behind and we need a good fall,” she said of crop conditions on Aug. 12.
Hopes for a good fall, though, really didn’t pan out. The first snowfall of the season came Oct. 12, when most soybeans were still standing in the field. Windows of opportunity came between periods of rain, and farmers were able to get most of their corn and soybean crops out of the field before the end of November. Still, there are fields where the crops were never harvested.
In mid-October, rural Worthington farmer Steve Bousema said he was glad when 2018 was done, and would be even more eager to put 2019 behind him.
“It’s going to be a year to get done with and move on,” said rural Lake Wilson farmer Bryan Biegler.
Keith Newman, New Vision Co-op grain division manager, said by the time harvest wrapped up, farmers in the New Vision service territory in southwest Minnesota reported average soybean yields in the low-40s (bushels per acre), with corn yields averaging between 145 to 150 bushels per acre. Newman said those yields compare to 2017 (the last normal year) average yields of 55 to 58 bushels per acre on soybeans and 190 to 200 bushel-per-acre averages on corn.