Blame Mother Nature?

Nor' east Thinkin'

Placing the burden of crop troubles on hapless Mom Nature doesn't pay the bills

Published on: July 30, 2010

 Last week, I took a rare 10-day vacation trip, wandering close to 3,300 miles up to northern Minnesota to visit family and wet my fishing line. And like any true agriculturist, I eagle-eyed all the goings-on on farms along the trek through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and back.

While many southern Mid-Atlantic farmers saw corn crops being burned up by dry heat, many of their Mid-West counterparts agonized over yet another deluge of rainfall. While Mid-Atlantic growers will be scrutinizing the 2011 hybrids lists for drought tolerance traits, Mid-West growers will be thinking more about “swamp tolerance”. (No, there isn’t such a thing.)

Today’s crops are a whole lot more “forgiving” of heavy rainfall than drought. While drowned out spots suffer, the rest of those fields often respond with greater production. But when corn is “fried”, whole fields usually suffer – burning up $250 to $350 worth of per-acre inputs in the process.

Yes, I know, that’s just one of the risks that America’s farmers have long endured. The biggest problem is that those risks (production costs and crop value losses) have never been greater.

If you’re in the dairy business, the resulting feed quality losses – occurring as pounds of milk produced per cow per day – are compounded several times over. And it’s impossible or at the very least tremendously expensive to make a good ration from a poor crop.

That’s why it pays dairy farmers over and over and over to grow corn silage on the best ground and pay whatever it takes to get forage crops harvested at peak nutritional value. Failing that, there is no worthy excuse – not even blaming Mother Nature.

Lucky for me, my livelihood doesn’t hinge on catching fish. And that should tell you a bit about my fishing skills and my luck during my vacation.

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