A big reason data from the Farm Journal Midwest Crop Tour is comparable to previous years is because of consistency. Scouts always travel the same routes, but pick fields at random.
In South Dakota, scouts only take samples in the southeast corner of the state. But this year, the western and central portions of the state are facing drought.
A tough year doesn’t even describe what this growing season has been like for western South Dakota producers.
“I can’t remember a year like this,” said Dennis Stanley, a farmer from Presho, South Dakota.
A dry winter and a hot, rainless summer shut some plants down.
“Some of these ears that are blistering, I don’t know if they’re going to make it,” said Stanley.
Two-thirds of the state is in a moderate drought, nearly half is in a severe drought, and Stanley is in the middle of it.
The area received some rain earlier in the month, and many wonder if it came out of time.
“It came too late for the row crop, but it does give us hope,” said Stanley. “If our corn could do 70 bushels per acre, we’d all be thrilled at this point. If I had cattle, I’d cut be cutting all of it for silage.”
Many did, baling thousands of acres of wheat. Sorghum may be next.
“Does it have any chance of making it?” said Stanley. “There’s no way this is going to make seed. It doesn’t look like there’s a lot of feed value here because it’s so short. [However], people are so desperate for hay this year and for feed, I’m sure [this farmer] will bale it.”
25 miles east, the farmers say the corn is still behind in maturity but they’re pleased with how it looks.
“Yep, it’s phenomenal with the shortage of rain,” said Thad Schindler, a farmer from Reliance, South Dakota. “This has filled out almost completely to the end. This will make corn.”
Schindler says August rains helped and luckily those showers found him. Miles down the road, they didn’t receive much rain.
In fact, it completely changed his plans to chop the crop for silage.
“What we thought we were going to cut for silage is going to make corn now,” said Schindler. “All through June, it was all over 100 degree days and just no rain. It’s phenomenal how the crop came out of it. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Schindler says the soybeans are even holding up well for what it’s been though.
Both producers say this drought in their area is worse than 2012.That’s partly, because they didn’t have much moisture coming into the spring of 2017.
“Even though 2012 was a drought year, it was a good year for us,” said Schindler. “The year 2012 and 2013 and the other good years we had, we’ll have to dip into that right now.”
A worse year for conditions, but the economics are not the same.
“Our crop insurance prices were set close to $6,” said Stanley. “We’re not going to be $4 this year. We’re not going to have anywhere close to our guarantees.”
Producers say the hard year may be nearly over. They’ll keep 2017 as a memory in these fields but hope it doesn’t repeat again.
“Where I farm, I’d say it’s about over,” said Stanley. “If we go another month without rain, it’s probably back again.”