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Crazy weather

Agriculture.com Staff 06/06/2008 @ 11:29am

Of all the years that I have farmed and otherwise been a weather watcher, I have come to believe that anything can happen. Weather changes are supposedly stimulating to the mind and body. If that is the case, farmers across the Midwest must be approaching an over stimulated condition.

I was in high school in the 1950's. The years of 1954, 1955 and 1956 were very dry in eastern Nebraska. Crop yields were terrible. Everyone was sure that the "Great American Desert" was returning. Normal crops resumed in 1957, just in time to make financing my impending college education easier.

I subscribe to the theory that weather never changes gradually. I remember the wet and late spring of 1974 turning into six weeks of uninterrupted temperatures of 100 degrees or more. Late planted crops were burned up before the next rain came in August.

More recently, southwest and southern Nebraska have suffered from many years of continuous drought. This spring they have been inundated by excess rainfall. Some locations have had 10 inches in less than a week. Reservoirs that were designed to prevent flooding in wet years and crop failure in dry years are finally filling up after being almost empty. Here in the eastern part of the state, we had five inches in the last two days on soil that was already saturated. Exact amounts vary tremendously depending on location.

For farmers in the affected areas it is hard to think of any factor weighing on markets other than the weather. Crop prices are making another leg up at the time when we usually see low prices because planting is finished and drought fears are still in the future.

A year ago this week crop prices were rising because much of the best corn and soybean land in Illinois was suffering from lack of rainfall. I was in that area the last week of June. I saw the sorry look of the thirsty crops. A couple of weeks later, after prices retreated, I called a farmer I know in Champaign County. He said that they were getting plenty of rain.

Basing marketing decisions on the current weather situation is tricky. What you see may not be representative of the country in general. The conditions you see can reverse very quickly. New crop cash grain bids of $6 for corn and $13 for soybeans are at least worth consideration. If the weather continues as it has, there is probably little downside risk. At these levels, farmers need to evaluate their cash flow and tax situation and try to filter out expectations they get from the media and coffee shop talk. Enjoy the rally, but do not forget that you raise crops to sell. Getting emotionally attached to grain in bins can be very expensive!

Of all the years that I have farmed and otherwise been a weather watcher, I have come to believe that anything can happen. Weather changes are supposedly stimulating to the mind and body. If that is the case, farmers across the Midwest must be approaching an over stimulated condition.

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