Nearly 6 inches below normal rainfall.
That is what we are experiencing in southern Minnesota. For those that follow the drought monitor, our county has a D3 rating which is an extreme drought. Rainfall has been very spotty. It can rain .3 inches and then down the road a mile it can rain 1.25 inches. We also know that corn requires an inch of rain each week during the later part of the growing season.
Unfortunately, weather and crops are the top agricultural news. Coming off record crops a year ago, this year we will fall just as much the other way. There is no doubt we will be harvesting earlier this year. I have heard that some of the corn plants have roots 11 feet deep—reaching for every last bit of moisture.
The most rain we have had at one time was .5 inches during the past couple of months. Along with warm temperatures, the crops are taking a toll. When I look at the crops (and it’s hard to), it reminds me of fingertips sliding down a wall during a fall. Hanging on the best they can but having no choice but to give up the go and crash.
High crop prices – but not for everyone
People say, “but look at the high crop prices.” But when you don’t have a crop to sell, high prices don’t help. In fact, it hurts because higher input prices ALWAYS follow crop prices. And many forward sold at much lower prices and hoping there is enough crop to fulfill those contracts.
Will rainfall be helpful? To be honest, it will be minimal. Much of the damage has been done but we will welcome any rain. The biggest benefit will be to start replenishing the moisture in our soils for next year.
So what lessons are there to learn?
I. We know only God is in control. There is absolutely nothing we can do but pray. There will be blessings even as we doubt.
2. New crop seed technologies seem to help. With as little rain as we have received, the crops should have already been brown but we aren’t seeing that.
3. Mental stress is high. We all need to talk to others. Even if it feels like we are a broken record and people are getting tired of us talking about it. Don’t keep it bottled inside.
4. Crop insurance is important to help with some of the risk management. At least it allows us to sleep at night knowing we have some of our costs covered. Crop insurance in not a profit maker, only a safety net.
5. Certain farming practices work better than others during a drought. This is something we will continually learn about. Learning never ends.
Things we can do to help with the stress
I. Focus on what is good. Find gratitude daily. Reach out a kind hand or write a hand-written note to comfort someone else. Let them know you are thinking about them.
2. Seek mental health care. Don’t be ashamed. Help is okay.
3. Focus on self-care. Read a book. Enjoy some music. Go for a walk. Learn something new. Write. Go visit a neighbor or family. Talk. Smile. Laugh. It’s good for the soul.
There is no question that farming is not for the faint of heart. It’s a roller coast like no other and it takes a special person to have to the stomach for the up and down spirals of the farming ride.