Farmers struggle to harvest wet fields; NDSU Extension concerned for coming year | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Farmers struggle to harvest wet fields; NDSU Extension concerned for coming year

Oct 7, 2019

An NDSU Extension ag finance specialist says he's concerned about the upcoming production year for farmers in the region.

Bryon Parman says after experiencing several years of low margins due to low prices and steady input costs, the weather in 2019 isn't doing producers any favors. Parman says the hardship is not limited to farmers just in North Dakota, but nationwide - and he says he's worried.

Parman says many producers were late getting into the fields in 2019, and were counting on late summer heat to help with the growing season. But August and September were wet and cooler than usual instead. Now with continued wet conditions into October, and a large storm system that could bring more precipitation to the region later this week - Parman says many farmers will see low test weights for their corn, as well as damage to their other commodities. And he says he's troubled at the prospect of farmers getting another late start in 2020.

"We're late getting into the field because it's so wet - if that turns out to be the case, we keep getting this rain every week - well then we're just going to have to wait til the field freezes hard, right, to get in there so it's not such a muddy mess. And if that's the case, then we're going to be behind again on fertilizer application, we're going to end up with these soggy fields when they finally thaw in the spring - heaven forbid we get another 60-70 inches of snow on top of it, and here we are behind again."

Parman says the Trump administration's ongoing trade disputes also complicate things for producers, but many are finding relief in market facilitation payments. But he says with the cooler, wet weather, they may not be enough to keep farmers afloat - especially if their yields aren't low enough to kick in crop insurance payments.

"I don't know that there will be that many outright denials about credit, but there may be some hard conversations had about letting go of some rented ground and some other things to reduce the amount of operating loans and other capital they need. I mean, some of that has already happened - but we may see considerably more of that going in to 2020."

Parman says he remains bullish on corn prices - but says if trade disputes continue and farmers plan to plant corn in 2020, they will need an early, aggressive plan to contract their acreage as soon as possible.