Contingency plans are already in progress, as is hope for a better crop season in 2013.
Steve Pitstick is visibly frustrated. It’s a typical sight among most U.S. farmers this crop season.
"Mother Nature always has the last at-bat," says Pitstick, who farms corn and soybeans near Maple Park, Ill. "I can do everything right, or at least I can do everything I can, but Mother Nature still has the last at-bat."
Also typical of most U.S. farmers, Pitstick has dug deep to find optimism and develop strategies moving forward instead of dwelling on this once-in-a-generation drought. For instance, he says he’s already researching various cover crop options so he can protect any excess nitrogen that his corn crop doesn’t uptake this year.
Pitstick was one of a hundred examples of farmer positivity on display at the 2012 Farm Journal Corn College in Heyworth, Ill. Farmers affected by drought held their heads high, and even those experiencing an above-average year were sympathetic to what has been happening around the Corn Belt.
"We’re kind of in a hot spot right now," says Shannon Haugen, who farms near Zumbrota, Minn. "I feel very blessed that we’re in the area we are right now, and you know what? Next year’s a new year, so look forward to it."
Here are some thoughts from two other farmers who are thankful for an above-average crop season:
In an annual Corn College tradition, farmers are asked to stand and volunteer a few words if this year has been the best year they’ve ever had. Only one farmer – Aaron Williams from Jamestown, N.D. – stood at this year’s two-day session. He then drew a big laugh when he quipped: "I’m from North Dakota, and it’s my first time growing corn, so it’s my best crop."
The high price of grain commodities has created another silver lining for many farmers. One Indiana farmer noted that although his yields are about 30 bu. per acre down from last year, $8 corn will make up some of the difference, plus he will see reduced transportation costs from hauling fewer total bushels.
Prices could certainly continue to trend higher – although there are no guarantees, says Mark Gold of Top Third Ag Marketing.
"I don’t have a clue how high prices are going to go," he says. "You can look technically on the charts and say that certainly $20 beans aren’t out of the question, and if the drought continues, $9 or $10 corn isn’t out of the question."
Another silver lining – the USDA last week reduced the interest rate for Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans from 3.75% to 2.25%. USDA also lowered payment reductions for Conservation Reserve Program lands that qualify for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.
"USDA officials are traveling to states around the country to see firsthand the impact of the drought, and we will continue to look for ways to help," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
For More Information
Read more news and coverage of the 2012 drought.