Rains come too little, too late

U.S. corn, soybean crops suffer in drought | Late rain may help salvage some yields, say growers

GREENFIELD, Indiana — It rained last week at Joe and Pat Mohr’s place, one of the few times this season.

The shower hit hard, dumping on the couple’s parched fields for less than an hour.

“Maybe it’ll help the soybeans. Maybe it’ll just bring on the weeds because there’s not a canopy,” said the Greenfield, Indiana, farmer.

In the end, 20 millimetres fell. Too little, too late.

Mohr’s farm is trapped in the midst of one of the largest four droughts in the U.S. in the past 120 years. The disaster has hit some of the most productive grain land on the planet and has caused run-ups in grain commodity prices by more than 30 percent in some cases.

The United States Department of Agriculture has now designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas, making qualified farmers eligible for low-interest emergency loans and other assistance.

Mohr only recently started to buy crop insurance and he’s glad he did.

“I’d sell you this corn crop (in the field) right now. I’d take 100 bushels today. Is that what folks are telling you they got? You can keep everything above that. You buying?” he asked his crop insurance agent over the phone.

“I didn’t think so,” he said during his side of the phone call.

Mohr’s farm is like many in the U.S. central Midwest, where producers and insurance agents expect half the usual crop of 160 to 200 bu.

Mohr’s corn has small, deformed cobs, or no cobs at all. The silking stage is mostly finished, so he expects to see about half of his typical 160 bu. yields and about 30 bu. soybeans, down from 50.

“We’ve had a few good years with higher yields and good prices, so this won’t hurt most folks, but there are always some that were (financially) stretched, even when times are good,” he said.

A couple of hours east, near Oxford, Ohio, Eric Doan has been farming with his Dad for a decade.

“I’m a bit concerned about contracts. I figure we’ll have enough grain to cover them. Not everybody will have even that much yield and they’ll be stuck paying the difference,” he said about his crop.

“Most landlords here know that if we don’t have a crop it’s hard to pay the cash rents. Lots are $300 an acre here and most of the corn around here doesn’t have cobs,” he said.

Doan and his Dad have 2,200 acres of corn and non-GM soybeans.

He gambled on getting a premium for the beans and that should have covered his additional investment in high priced, non-glyphosate herbicides.

“It was a real early spring, good moisture and what looked to us like, maybe, the best year ever. Now, because the beans haven’t canopied-in, I’ve got spray again for weeds and won’t be getting much yield either,” he said.

Doan echoed Mohr’s sentiments about having had good years since 2007. Because of that, he views 2012 as “just a setback.”

“I got crop insurance. I’m going to be OK. For the folks with crops the prices are going to be great, so in a whole career, I hope I don’t see too many of these, but you got to know you’re going to get one or two.”

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