Can we plant? Should we? Which crops?
It has become a very interesting and complicated spring planting season, to say the least! Cool WET conditions, markets, crop insurance, trade, and changes to government programs have become the daily challenges of the 2019 crop year. While we have accomplished much less in the field than we’d like, that time hasn’t been wasted. It has been a daily routine to spend a few hours with calculators clicking and in front of the computer updating spreadsheets, trying to decide what our planting intentions are going forward. There is no easy answer, and Mother Nature always has the final word in any decision in which we arrive.
We have now received over 8” of rain in May and 13.6” since installing our new weather station on March 18th. Between this precipitation we have sprayed burndown herbicides and put nitrogen on 70% of our planned corn acres and have sprayed 65% of our planned soybean acres. Planting has been slower as it has just been WET and our no-till/reduced tillage farming practices can somewhat limit our capabilities in these situations.
Currently we have 15% of our corn planted (and emerged) and 40% of our beans in the ground. We have really pushed the wet conditions planting soybeans. Most of what we’ve planted was so wet that even our spiked no-till closing wheels on the bean planter left the furrow open. With this much rain, the furrows being open hasn’t been an issue and all but the last planted beans are emerged! The soybeans we planted in April, five weeks ago, emerged after being in the ground 24 days and stand counts showed that 139,000 of a planted 140,000 seeds per acre emerged, amazing!
Besides the challenges imposed by Mother Nature, most of our focus has been on factors other than production that continue to shape the 2019 economic picture…
A new USDA MFP program was announced that will work much different than last year’s tariff program, and many details are still not available. We know that it will be a per acre flat payment per county broken into three payments spread over the marketing year. It will not favor one crop over another. Last year’s program was based off bushels produced and favored soybeans much more than corn. An article from the University of Illinois estimated payments could total $30-50 a planted acre but the USDA will not be providing any hard details until after the July 15th acreage reporting period.
Crop insurance is another hot topic for those of us that have it. We attended a standing room only meeting yesterday in Clinnton sponsored by Peterson Insurance and Great American. Preventive plant and the dozens of scenarios/options available to producers were discussed and analyzed. We have looked at these options, how it could affect us, and how it affects those we work with in great detail. The recent jumps in the market have made planting corn late more attractive than just a week ago. We have traded in our remaining planned corn seed for shorter season hybrids. Our calculations show that even a short crop, 20-40 bushels per acre below our 5 year average, will provide more income than a prevented plant insurance claim at this point in time and market.
In short, it has been pretty stressful on the farm as of late. The numbers are about worn off all the calculators, and as May comes to a close we have less than a third of the crop in. The response from the market, crop insurance, and the promise of an MFP program for 2019 are all positives in the challenges we are facing. But we are farmers, we would like to get the crop in. Let’s pray for some drier weather, and remember that he only gives us what we can handle.