You may have heard a lot of talk about prevented planting this spring. I was recently interviewed for an article on the hay and grain planting and harvesting issues that are already happening. You can read about that here. But what does prevented planting mean exactly and how does this impact you?
A lot of farmers were struggling to get into their fields this spring. We had 22 days straight of rain here in Minnesota in the month of May. That is a lot of rain. A lot of rain translates into wet fields. Wet fields means we can’t get into plant. Wet, muddy fields also mean that seeds don’t grow.
Crop insurance usually has plant-by dates, or dates that you have to have your crop in the ground to claim any type of insurance on them if something goes wrong (hail, wind, bug infestation, tornado, etc.) Once those dates pass, depending on your plan, your insurance can either refuse to cover your crop all together or start reducing the percentage that they cover it at. For Minnesota, it is usually May 31st for corn and June 15th for soybeans.
Prevented planting is another type of insurance coverage that farmers carry in case they can’t get their crop planted by the specified dates. A lot of famers were in that boat this spring. In fact, our neighbors didn’t plant their 120 acre field because they couldn’t get in. That means a lot of farmers are leaving acres unplanted or are looking for alternatives to plant for a shorter or later growing season.
We were “lucky” (using that term loosely here) as we got our crop in. But that being said, we have areas of our fields that we had to leave unplanted because sections were still too wet. We have areas that we had to go in and try to replant, some were successful, others were not. We have areas in the fields with ruts from our tractor, cultivator and even planter getting stuck and having to work our way out. It is very likely that our crop won’t grow where this happened either. So lucky, yes, that most of our fields are planted, but it isn’t what we expected either and we have lost acres of crop because of it.
So what does this say for the future? It is already hitting livestock farmers that depend on crops to feed their animals. Barley, hay and alfalfa fields were hit particularly hard because of the fall/winter drought and then the wet and cold spring. Farmers are just now doing their first cutting, much of it very wet. Ditches are being cut all over the state to make forage for livestock. Some farmers are selling off portions of their livestock earlier than expected because they just can’t find or can afford the feed. Feed prices are rising because there is already a projected shortage of soybean feed come early September. What will this do for crop prices come fall, I honestly can’t say.
Unfortunately, now that the weather is a little bit better and farmers are able to plant what could be turned into feed for their animals, there is legislation preventing an early harvest before November 1st. So that still puts farmers in a bind as they could plant but they can’t harvest the crop sooner for animal feed, even though they need it.
Feed elevators are starting to have to only sell to those who have contracts with them, because they are unsure if they can even meet the demand of those contracts in place. Some farmers are working to renegotiate contracts with their seed companies and salesman as they were unable to use some or all of their seed or needed to switch our corn for soybeans. Fertilizer and chemical companies often have contracts with farmers and some farmers now no longer need the same amounts or any at all as they had to leave fields unplanted. Some farmers have to contract their crop before its even in the ground to well, afford to farm, and now they will have contracts that they cannot fill but still must meet.
This is scary. This could mean that we have an influx of livestock on the market. Once that livestock is gone, you really can’t get it back. There could be a shortage of feed for all winter as acres are not being planted. There is a possibility that what crop is out there could be affected by elements such as rain, hail, wind, bugs, etc. and farmers could lose even more crop. There may be some farmers who cannot bounce back from this. That might be the scariest thought of all.
Am I praying that Mother Nature cooperates with us a little more the rest of the summer? You bet. Am I praying for my neighbors and their livestock? Definitely. Am I praying that my state government wakes up to what is happening and the implications of it a little sooner? Oh yes.
At the end of the day, Mother Nature is still in control and all a farmer can do is hope and pray. We can control our inputs to an extent then after that, we leave it up to the sun, rain and God.