Tough Start for Grain Crops

Nor' east Thinkin'

Midwest rains swamp early progress, fuel crop price rises

Published on: June 17, 2009

After a five-day trip into the Midwest for a family reunion, I’m back at my computer with much to report. First and foremost, I’d have to say that Northeast farmers have been blessed with good weather this spring  and Midwest farmers haven’t. That’s bound to push up corn, soybean and wheat prices this summer. 


Much of the corn that I saw from the mid-sections of Ohio to western Iowa was at least two weeks behind the garden spots of southeast Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley and western New York. Much of that Midwest corn has little chance to make “head high by the fourth of July.” That’s extremely unusual, and it’s bound to impact crop yields.


No-till fields really stood out. So many were either unplanted or had just been planted. Most soybeans that were emerged were yellow. Reason? Frequent and substantial rainfall, and colder than normal weather. Our windshield wipers were working most of the way west.


This spring’s wet weather spells trouble for wheat and barley, too. Web reports at confirm the wet weather also is causing fusarium and scab troubles from Missouri to the Delmarva.


The good part of getting away


When you’re involved in agriculture, you see everything during your travels with “farmer eyes”. All along our westward journey on I-70 and I-80, we saw signs of agricultural optimism and prosperity. Most notable were the brand new tractors, combines and mega-grain wagons headed east. And I must have spotted at least 10 old tractors riding flatbeds to restoration shops somewhere.


I continue to be amazed at the changes underway in Iowa where my family roots are. Ethanol plants and huge wind turbine farms have changed the horizon once dominated by corn, soybeans and tree groves. Poultry houses and new feed mills have joined hog facilities and cattle feedlots, generating new local markets for an overflowing grain surplus region that once had only one market – exports.


Iowa must also be subsidizing a “white sale” on roofing. Older tin and colored roofing materials are clearly giving way to white metal roofing – even on older barns and sheds. Nowhere was it more evident than in the Hawkeye State.


While city slickers wail “There’s nothing but corn and beans out here!”, the trip to hug family, shake hands and reminisce was therapeutic. The wide open spaces, slower paced living, sparse human populations and even more sparse traffic have a strong pull, as does my favorite regional signature food – the breaded pork tenderloin.

And out there, just as in my younger days, farm kids still have to drive far greater distances to find trouble. Yes, it can be found. But distance still is an effective deterrent.

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