June 8, 2011

Farmers running out of time to finish seeding

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

“We’re not going to make it!” That statement by Larry Marmon pretty well sums up the feelings of the vast majority of McKenzie County farmers who will not be getting all of their acreage planted this year due to excessive moisture.
“We’ve gotten about nine inches of rain since the first of May,” states Marmon. “And that is on top of a record snowfall this winter.”
Like virtually every other farmer in McKenzie County, wet fields have kept Marmon from planting this year’s crop.
“I’ve only got 450 of my 1,300 acres seeded so far this spring,” stated Marmon, who was trying to take advantage of last Friday’s dry weather to get back into the field. “I’m making a checkerboard out of my fields now. I’m just looking for dry spots to seed.”
And like Marmon, every farmer in McKenzie County is running out of time to get their crops seeded and still hope to be able to harvest them before the first killing frost.
And the window of opportunity for McKenzie County farmers to get their fields seeded is closing daily.
“With all of the wet weather that we’ve had, I don’t know if 25 percent of the county has been seeded,” stated Mike Jenks, agronomist with Taylor Ag Services. “Some farmers may be 50 percent done, but there are many others that haven’t even been able to turn a wheel because of wet soils.”
With over 478,000 acres being planted into crops annually the last two years, 75 percent of the county going unseeded is unheard of.
“The bottom line for most farmers is that they have to have their fields seeded by June 15 if they want to have a chance to get their crops to harvest,” states Jenks. “Wheat has a 90-day growing season, and we are definitely pushing the limits of the season before we get our first killing frost,”
According to Jenks, historically the first killing frost in McKenzie County is around the end of September.
Not only do farmers have to worry about the first killing frost, they also have tough choices to make since that have passed the June 5 deadline for applying for crop insurance.
“Since most farmers haven’t got their crops in, anything that they plant now will mean that they have to apply for preventive planting coverage,” states Jenks.
And according to Jenks, that is going to force some farmers to make hard decisions.
“I’ve heard from many farmers that they are going to go the preventing planting route,” states Jenks. “But others are going to gamble on a long fall, and go ahead and try to get their crops planted, even if they aren’t fully covered by insurance.
“Some farmers are going to gamble that even if they get a poorer crop because of the late seeding, they could come out ahead because of higher wheat prices with the drought in the southern states,” commented Jenks. “But the bottom line is I’d say that seeding for the season will be over by June 15.”
Marmon is one of the farmers who is willing to toss the dice and gamble on trying to get as much seed into the ground as possible.
“I’m going to keep on planting until June 15 or later, if the weather allows it,” says Marmon. “I know that I’m going to push the first frost. But I’m hoping that it will be a long, warm fall and it will pay off for me. If it doesn’t, I guess I can say that I tried.”
Like a good gambler, Marmon knows that every dollar that he sticks into this year’s crop now is at risk. He needs dry, hot days for the next two weeks to get his fields seeded. But with the forecast for the next two weeks calling for cooler temperatures and a good chance of more rain, he may decide to fold his cards and cover his losses.