My dad farmed for 48 years and I still remember the unbridled optimism he had when the weather began to warm up every Spring. Even if the prospects for the impending year seemed a bit cloudy, he always found a silver lining that boosted his spirits and carried him through the planting season. However, if he was farming in 2019, I think even his patience might be tested with the way the crop season is starting.
Across most of the Midwest, this year is kicking off with a heavy cloud cover, both literally and figuratively. The past few weeks have been rather challenging for farmers with massive floods in the western part of the Corn Belt and persistent rainstorms in the eastern part. This has delayed much of the pre-planting fieldwork that farmers typically like to have done by April 20th each year. It’s not at a critical juncture yet, as once the fields do finally dry up the size and efficiency of modern equipment will allow farmers to get the seeds in the ground very quickly. However, with more rain expected next week in the eastern Corn Belt some are wondering if ground conditions will be suitable by the end of the month.
Soft commodity prices are also creating some concern in the countryside. New crop corn bids are approximately 20 cents lower than this time last year, while soybean bids have dropped nearly $1.50 per bushel, due primarily to the trade tariff war with China. In most years, delayed planting will often create a spring rally in corn prices but that hasn’t materialized, yet. And soybean farmers hoping for an immediate price rally after the trade disagreement is finally resolved may be sadly disappointed.
While conditions down on the farm may not be ideal at the moment, there’s still plenty of time for the news to improve. As my father often stated, to be a successful farmer you must be willing to accept and live with both risk and uncertainty. Given what we’ve seen so far, 2019 is likely to offer a big dose of each.
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