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Seeking Greener Pastures

Historically wet conditions dash 2019 harvest hopes

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Astartling image is making its way around social media within agriculture circles.

It’s a picture of the Midwest taken from space in June 2019, and when compared to a picture taken the same time last year, it illustrates what farmers already know all too well — this year’s crops never stood a chance.

The Washington Post article the images were posted alongside, “Midwestern farmers’ struggles with extreme weather are visible from space,” described the Midwest as more of a brown belt than a farm belt. Nearly all of Illinois and Iowa are awash in tones of tan and taupe — along with parts of Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota and South Dakota — where it should be a lush green.

Heavy rain and flooding kept farmers out of the fields for far longer than normal, if they were able to get in at all.

The 2019 corn harvest will certainly be much lower than we’ve become accustomed to — possibly the lowest since 2012, according to an AccuWeather analysis. It estimates the 2019 corn harvest will be 13.03 billion bushels, based on 167 bushels/acre on 78 million acres harvested.

In addition to fewer crops being planted, the fields that were planted aren’t in the best condition.

According to the June 24 USDA Crop Progress Report, the percentage of corn that reached “good” or “excellent” quality in 18 key corn-growing states was only 56%, down from 76% the same time last year.

On the soybean side, USDA estimated in its weekly Crop Progress Report from July 8 that soybean planting pace showed 4%, or 3.2 million of the estimated 80 million soybean acres are going unplanted.

Although this is rather grim news for those who make a living buying, selling and handling grain, the resiliency of the people in this industry never ceases to amaze me.

Many who have been at this for years will tell you that some years are better than others, and it’s always going to be that way. On the bright side, the struggles of 2019 will make the next bumper crop seem even sweeter. ■

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