Farmers still wrapping up late harvest

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Late planting led to a later harvest for local farmers, who are now racing against the weather to get their crops out of the ground before the autumn rains hit hard and the winter freeze comes.

This year’s harvest marks the end of the challenging growing season that began with a deluge of spring rains that delayed planting, a recent drought that slowed growth on the crops planted later and lingering negative effects from the trade battle between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. government did make payments to farmers this year for losses due to the trade battle, and tensions between the two countries have eased a bit, but some local farmers still have concerns about how it will affect the future.

“The problem is all of our trading partners are going to say, ‘Can we trust the U.S. to trade with us?’” said Dennis Whitsitt, a white corn, soybean and wheat farmer in Duff. “We spent years building up those relationships.”

Whitsitt also noted that although the government did offer payouts to farmers this year to make up for trade losses, those payouts may not come in future years.

Ernie Brames, who farms land near the 4-H Fairgrounds, said that in his opinion, the trade war has been the worst part of this farming season.

“We can deal with the weather,” he said of farmers. “We can deal with Mother Nature. That’s farming.”

Mother Nature certainly gave farmers a lot to deal with this season, though it seems local farmers managed well. It won’t be a bumper crop, but they still expect to have decent yield. Once farmers got the crops in the ground, Whitsitt said, the weather was good until the recent drought. That dry weather means a smaller soybean in the pods of plants that were planted later, but he figures they’ll still produce a decent product.

“The earlier crops did well,” he said. “The later crops probably won’t do as well.”

The drought meant that the plants planted earlier were dry enough in the field to be harvested without too much extra drying, but the recent rain means the crops still in the ground are damp. That’s an obstacle, considering it’s late in the harvest season.

Alan Small, who farms near Ireland, said he still has beans in the ground. He’s not expecting those to produce as good of yield as the beans he’s already harvested.

“I’m expecting about half a crop less compared to the early-planted beans,” he said. “I believe it’ll make a pretty decent bean as far as quality is concerned, but we just aren’t sure yet what’s going to happen.”

Whitsitt is facing a similar uncertainty. Some of his bean plants are still green, and both his beans and corn still in the ground are damp after the recent rain. As the harvest winds down, the question on the minds of Whitsitt and other local farmers is whether to harvest them now and have to dry them, which costs money, or wait a bit longer and hope the weather holds.

Regardless of how each farmer answers that question, one thing is certain: This year is a late harvest.




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