Crucial times for farmers in Golden Plains

Saturday, September 24, 2005

For the grain farmers of the Golden Plains, this is one of the busiest of seasons. On one hand, the farmers are planting wheat, while on the other they are getting ready to harvest corn, milo and soybeans.

"We're just getting started," said Jan Mahon, grain manager at Frenchman Valley Co-op in McCook. "We took some soybeans in today. The first loads look pretty good."

Although there only has been very limited intake of corn and milo, the first reports have been encouraging, with dryland corn in the 80-bushel per acre range at Frenchman Valley and up to 100 bushels per acre in other locations.

Overall, Red Willow County agent Kent Been expects yields to be all over the place. "I've seen some very good corn and a few fields that aren't so good."

His observations are in line with the latest reports from the USDA's Nebraska Agricultural Statistics Service, which shows that both corn and soybean crops are in good shape. According to the most recent survey, 9 percent of the corn crop is rated in poor condition, meaning that 91 percent of the crop is in fair or better shape.

The report was not quite so favorable for soybeans, with 16 percent of the crop rated poor or very poor.

Because of rising fuel prices, farmers are being hit particularly hard by production costs this year. That turns out to be a double whammy, as farmers are feeling the cost bite on both the planting and harvesting sides of their business.

Weather is also a huge factor. Asked to predict yields and estimate peak dates for harvest and planting, Agent Been said, with a smiling shrug, "It all depends on the weather," explaining that so much is at stake this time of year.

"One day you're wishing for a freeze, because that would speed up the drying of corn, the next you're hoping the snow will hold off so you can get harvest complete."

All things considered, the next few weeks are crucial for the grain farmers of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas. Lots of long days are yet to go, but the farmers will be resting a lot easier when the wheat is in the ground and the corn is in the bin.

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