Running up and down the road though the central Corn Belt last week in hundred degree temps, with the drought-struck crops all on display, you could get the feeling that the world of ag is headed to some kind of big adjustment with this year's harvest. At the least, one is left with a lot of questions.
In a year like this, weather trumps everything--technology, good management, soil quality, good timing, etc. Or does it? Does rainfall account for all the variablity in crop condition you see in the countryside? From the road and the air, the differences in crop quality were stark in places. Why is the field with all the grass waterways in better shape than the one next to it? Did drought-tolerant seed pan out? Did precision applications pay off for anybody? Did an early planting date have much effect finally?
And while it may be getting late in the game for corn and hay, just how resilient are these soybeans? Crop tour observers I followed noted that the beans were in better shape than they expected. Will harvest be a tale of two crops--one in defeat, another a comback kid?
What does it feel like to chop a lost corn crop? And what does the livestock guy have left for options with these grain prices and burned-up pastures? And even if you were halfway fortunate, what's the psychological effect of harvesting a break-even sort of crop?
One farmer suggested that this may be the year a bunch of older farmers decide it's time to retire. They've had four or five rosy years at career's end and maybe have hung on a longer than they expected. But now there's some uncertainty in the wind. The drought could have long-lasting effects. We joked that the guys over eighty might now want to let their sixty-year-old kids have a go at managing the place finally.
Then there's the knotty business of farm programs, insurance issues, and tax questions. What are we going to get with this farm bill? Will crop insurance processes be at all orderly? More questions blowing in the wind.
It just seems that this harvest is going to look different than anything we've seen for a while. Agree?