Drought Was a Many-Splendored Thing

Some areas cooked while others had best year ever.

Published on: Mar 25, 2013

Most years have reasonable growing conditions, but there are always one or more pocket droughts somewhere. The 2012 season featured tough to terrible growing conditions with a few good spots here and there, especially first in the Eastern Corn Belt, then later in south-central Iowa and parts of Nebraska. Illinois took it on the chin as well, and in the end, recorded a lower average yield than Indiana.

One reason may have been because of extreme variation in Indiana. While areas south of I-74 were burning up, parts of northern Indiana were enjoying better growing conditions. A visit with the folks at Newton County, Ind., in a meeting recently indicated yields went as high as 200 bushels per acre. A narrow area that extended on eastward toward Kokomo and around Muncie tended to receive rain, while many others didn't. Even in Newton County the rain was spotty. The southern part of the county saw yields more in the 100 bushel per acre range.

Variable ear size: All these ears came from one field. Even in the same field, fields varied considerably last fall.
Variable ear size: All these ears came from one field. Even in the same field, fields varied considerably last fall.

That doesn't sound so bad if your county average yield was hovering around 50. Some 31 Indiana counties posted corn average yields of 64 bushels per acre or less. All were either south of 40, had US 40 running through it, or bordered a county to the south with U.S. 40 running in it. Some northeastern counties weren't hot spots, but rains returned earlier there, and their yields tended to recover faster.

County yields reports are not out nationwide. GRIP crop insurance policies are being paid based on county average yield. These policies do not account for your actual yield, but simply pay on the deviation in the county average from normal. Some checks will be rather hefty. However, it is the most expensive of all insurance policies. And if you happen to be the area of the county that doesn't do as well as the rest of the county, you might not collect, even if you had crop problems.

Farmers have made their insurance choices for another season. Surprisingly, many people who didn't have insurance in 2012 don't have it again, unless their banker convinced them otherwise. They feel like self-insurance has paid over the long haul, and are willing to roll the dice again. As the drought supposedly dissipates, here's hoping you took a long, hard look at crop insurance opportunities, particularly if you farm in the Western Corn Belt, where the drought is certainly not over.