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Insult and Injury

August 1, 2008

It was like rubbing salt in his wounds. On July 3, 2008, Howard Goodhue wove his way around the low spots in his Carlisle, Iowa, field, dodging the potholes that were remnants of the 2008 floods. He was planting this field for the second time this year—corn in May, soybeans now. His first crop was drowned out by nearly 10' of water less than a month earlier.

Dust drifted through the air behind his soybean drill. The injury was done, but the insult came with the realization that this field could really use a good rain. "The fish are feeding on my inputs," Howard had said in mid-June, at the height of the flood.

Howard and his son Corey are not alone. Farmers throughout the country have battled water and drought, scrambled to get a crop planted and, in many cases, replanted.

About 20% of respondents in a Farm Journal Media survey say they were forced to replant some portion of their land. On an acreage basis, it equaled 3% of the total farmed by the respondents.

Numbers fluctuate. Even now, the industry is questioning how many acres of corn and soybeans ended up in the ground. Still more questions remain unanswered about yield potential, given the fact that the survey shows that corn and soybean planting was delayed two or more weeks for 34% of producers.

When USDA announced its June acreage estimates, it cautioned the numbers would likely not be accurate. Much of the Midwest, from Indiana to Nebraska, was inundated with rainfall. Epic flooding occurred throughout the region during mid- June as USDA's survey was being completed. The agency collected new figures in July and will release updated estimates Aug. 12.

The Farm Journal Media survey indicates that farmers had actually planned considerably more corn acres than USDA reported in its March intended acreage estimate. High prices held farmers' interest in corn and only slightly fewer acres were planned for 2008 compared with last year's record-setting crop (see table).

Midwest rains, of course, dampened those plans, with the survey showing just more than 80 million in the ground. Soybean acres also suffered, but likely more due to continued strong corn prices than water.

Droughts, too. Out West and down South, the story was different. What the Midwest couldn't stop, these farmers can't get started. They need rain and lots of it.

Farmer and farm business management coach Dick Wittman is in his fourth year of significant rain shortages in the past five on his Lapwai, Idaho, cereal-grain operation.

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