Winter foils farmer production

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. School children in much of the country may wish for continued blizzard conditions, but the rest of us wish our weather woes would stop.

None more so than our nation’s farmers, whose financial prosperity is harmed by destructive winter weather.

After a wet fall, America’s farmers have been slammed once again. A snowy winter has further complicated agriculture businesses.
Livestock farmers struggle to herd animals, commodity farmers still have crops in the ground and Southern farmers are trying to salvage their citrus because of an unseasonably cold season.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, a corn farmer in the southwest corner of the state talked about his personal experience with the snowfall. According to the report, the state has about $200 million-worth of corn still un-harvested.

"The snow will take the ears and strip them and they'll fall on the ground," said Lon Anker, referring to his corn loss.

A December storm leaving 20 inches of snow in the region really complicated an already difficult fall for Minnesota farmers. But, they still don’t have it as bad as North Dakota farmers, who have more than a quarter of their corn crop still in the field.

Soil moisture levels are well above normal. Snow pack carries the potential for flooding as well as field loss. Farmers can alleviate potential soil erosion in a couple of ways, such as no-till farming or utilization of a cover crop.

Un-harvested crops are subject to grazing animals, mold and rot.

Harvested crops that are stored in grain bins are not without worry. Heavy snow accumulation can easily seep into bins to cause damage. Farmers must carefully monitor their bins and often incur expensive drying costs to keep stored crops in the best environment.

Livestock farmers are also facing numerous troubles.

According to the Center for Agriculture Sustainability, animal farmers create windbreaks using hay bales and post-and board-walls to help shield animals from fierce winter weather.
Iowa Farmer Today reports that severe weather causes stress levels for livestock to increase, which increases their need for feed and hay. The Progressive Farmer reported that low temperatures weaken animals’ immune systems, which can cause future health problems and even death.

“People went to extreme ends, they fought adverse elements, they risked frostbite and they risked their own lives to care for their animals,'' said Bruce Berven, executive vice president of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association in an Omaha-World Herald article. “That's what the business is all about.”

America’s citrus growers did not escape weather disturbances either, despite their usually mild location. Plummeting temperatures, well below the season average, had growers resorting to spraying their crops with water to create a shield layer of ice for insulation.

In January, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency that permitted him to issue a temporary hold on weight, height, length and width limits on trucks transporting citrus crops.
As spring nears, farmers will continue to assess the damages and plan for a new season, hoping for dry weather and limited delays.

Do you personally know a farmer affected by this season’s weather? Should the government take more of a role, beyond insurance, in helping American farmers this year?

*Photo obtained from Wallaces Farmer.

No comments: