Update for February 22, 2014.
After a busy stretch of farm meetings, I feel overwhelmed with all the information. This week I attended the corn and soybean conventions in Fargo. They were both done very well, and I appreciate the effort that goes into organizing and implementing the events. A lot of the information is similar to going to church. We need to hear each year the things that we already have heard before, and that we know we should do, and hope they will get done THIS year. How nice would it be to magically snap your finger, and have your planter in a nice warm place where you could take all the time in the world getting it set? Of course you still would not know whether it is going to be mud or dust this spring.
With corn prices about ½ of last year, there certainly wasn’t the amount of general enthusiasm as last year. What can we expect? According to USDA, $7.00 corn nowhere to be seen in the next 10 years. Of course weather can change that in a matter of months, or not. On the weeds front, certainly no new miracles. And yes, I believe we have come to expect miracles. One speaker spoke on energy production in the US. I am not ready to say that is a miracle, but the whole process is a technological amazement. The financial component is interesting as well according to one of the speakers. Without the ageing baby boomers who have amassed massive retirement savings, the capital would not exist to fuel such expensive undertakings. So, how does all this gas and oil weigh on ethanol? Another speaker says it hinges on EPA. Politics do make for strange bedfellows indeed. On one hand were are at war with EPA for trying to implement unreasonable spraying restrictions, and on the other if they implement the mileage and pollution control standards they want, ethanol offers the only reasonable way to meet them at this point.
We have a new farm bill. There was some talk on it, but nothing that I am ready to make sense of just quite yet. Crop insurance is tied to conservation compliance, but not really, grandfathering is being allowed. A question that is probably on most anyone’s mind who lived through the 80’s is if prices go below cost of production, will a farmer still be able to make it who does not have unreasonable debt?
The most striking talk that I heard was delivered by Brandon Montgomery. Brandon is a soils graduate student at NDSU. Cutting to the chase, Brandon had revisited several spots where Barnes loam had been classified more than 50 years ago. Some spots had not changed that much but in some areas, the whole Ap horizon was gone. The subsoil was now being farmed. Driving around seeing all the bare fields with snow mixed with varying degrees of black soil mixed, makes me wonder what the true erosion rates really are. I just hope this does not indicate another miracle thinking episode we are having, where we grow wonderful crops without top soil.
And last but not least, Drew Lerner of World Weather INC, spoke on what we could expect for weather. First off, no quick warm up. Several more weeks below normal temps. He said spring would come late, but not too late, and would warm up fast for a good planting season. Rains would come and not be too large. Then into summer, watch out for dry conditions. He was looking at the 1934-35-36 relation to 2012,13, and so far into 2014. Some strong similarities that in a nutshell came down to watching the California drought, and the cold temps in the east. Similar to 1936, California was dry until February, but then the drought resumed and merged with the Midwest drought, causing a blocking high pressure that continued to keep rain away. He is “concerned”, saying he does not see a catastrophe like 1936. We will see. Kelly Cooper, Farm Manager, CCSP