2011-10-11 / Front Page

Owen Farmers Among State’s Majority With Low Crop Yields Due To Weather Habits In 2011

IDA Director: Indiana Farmers May Look At Changing Crop Mixes
by Michael Stanley Staff Writer


Area farmer Ron Sample of rural Gosport works his way through a soybean field late Wednesday morning on Kirby Road in Montgomery Township. (Staff Photo) Area farmer Ron Sample of rural Gosport works his way through a soybean field late Wednesday morning on Kirby Road in Montgomery Township. (Staff Photo) For the three generation farming team of Ron, Eddie and Josh Sample, crop yields and prices have both seen a big decline this harvest season.

During a Wednesday morning visit to the farm the three work on rural Smith Road, Eddie explained that the family’s 1,000 acres of farmland hasn’t even produced enough corn to even pay attention to what it’s making. Approximately 350 acres have been devoted to corn.

“I think crops have followed what you might expect, especially if you compare it to the harvest rates and the five-year average,” Indiana Department of Agriculture Director Joe Kelsay told the Spencer Evening World on Wednesday afternoon. “As far as harvesting, we are two weeks behind, but that’s not a surprise because of the tardiness we’ve had with crops. Variability is the name of the game from a yield standpoint.”


Third generation Owen county farmer josh Sample was busy late Wednesday morning helping his dad in one of the family’s fields on rural Smith road, north of Gosport. (Staff Photo) Third generation Owen county farmer josh Sample was busy late Wednesday morning helping his dad in one of the family’s fields on rural Smith road, north of Gosport. (Staff Photo) For the Samples, they’ve seen soybean yields from their 400 acres produce between 25-45 bushel per acre.

“Most of the early crop wasn’t bad, but the later crop was really hurt,” Eddie explained. “We had that really wet spring, then a bad, dry summer. A few weeks ago, we had some rain and it’s nice now. I think that little bit of rain we had recently may have helped my double crop beans.”

Director Kelsay said that in 2011, an average of 10 bushel of corn per acre is normal, but he noted that 200 bushel an acre and everything in between is what farmers are accustomed to. He added that Hoosier farmers are only about 20 percent into corn harvesting for the year.

“Indiana is in position to struggle in production overall and is one of the states hit hardest by the weather we’ve been dealt,” Kelsay mentioned. “With the extremely late planting, lots of rain and then the dry spell, it’s a one-two punch leaving Indiana reeling.”

Kelsay said that he’s spoken to friends near Evansville who are pleased with crop yields, and has also heard the same response near the Chicago area.

“When most of Indiana was dry during the July and August time frame, some areas received pop-up showers, just enough to sustain the crops. Even the same farmer with fields in different places is having a great deal of variability.”

Kelsay noted the benefit of hybrids and technology helping farmers overcome some of, but certainly not all of the stresses of weather.

“We generally have better and higher prices and, while that won’t make you whole in all cases, it certainly is nice in terms of making payments. Even if you have a depressed yield, what you do have is valuable. Although we lost $1 off of the price a week ago and it is reason for concern, it is still above what most consider a normal price for corn. I think we’re at a new plateau.”

He explained that production comes down to the weather and conditions during planting time, pollination and what stresses the plants were under during the important parts of their life cycle.

“We are struggling to meet trendline yield expectations for the state,” Kelsay said. “This is pure speculation, but I believe this is an anomaly. We just got dealt a bad hand with weather conditions. This may underscore risk management practices for some farmers, such as crop insurance for individual farmers. Some may give some attention to pre-purchased inputs and pre-sale commodities. Some may say they will use market to help them decide on a crop mix, but also think about spreading the risk and planting different crops. Some may change the corn and soybean balance or might add wheat to the rotation to spread out some of the risk they are willing to take.”

Kelsay said that several farmers he knows planted more corn than they were accustomed to in 2011, but with costs higher from tillage and storage components, some may revert back to more of a 50-50 corn to soybean rotation. He noted that even though the market may say Indiana is in need of additional corn, farmers may spread the risk. He mentioned that cropping decisions are made until planters roll through the ground.

“It’s amazing what commitment Indiana farmers have and how well they work with the resources they are blessed with. The risks with the business go basically unnoticed,” Kelsay said. “A lot of folks are having hard conversations over the dinner table about what crops to plant, how to pay the bank and factors of production. These guys are resilient. They are working hard every day, trying to find out how to make more with less, utilizing the technology and tools available. Nothing against the agriscience folks, they continue to work on adding value to the farm business, but sadly all of us have to deal with weather patterns and have to rely on what’s dealt to us... a challenge and risk we all have to take.”

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