As corn farmers harvest their crops for the season, most in Missouri are seeing a bleak outcome for this year’s yields. Soybean farmers are not only worrying about yields, but the rising tariffs placed on the United States by China. And where federal programs seem like they could pick up the slack for farmers with low yields, drought-diminished yields meanless government assistance.
While the 2018 drought isn’t as widespread and harsh as that of 2012, it has been more isolated to Missouri. In 2012, the drought caused significant crop yield losses nationwide, which increased crop prices as a counter-balance. This year, however, many other states are experiencing record crop yields. As a result, the prices have remained low nationwide, meaning that Missouri farmers are feeling the brunt of the drought, neither pulling in the yield necessary to make a profit or having high prices even it out.
Co-owner of Niemeyer Family Farms Tim Niemeyer said that the 2018 drought is disproportionately affecting Missouri farmers and livestock producers.
“Where we are 50 bushels behind on our average, everybody else is 40-50 bushels ahead of their average,” Niemeyer said. “We’re almost having a record crop, nationwide. We (Missourians) are getting a double-whammy, we’ve got no price and no yield. In 2012, we no yield, but we had the price. Your revenue insurance would kick in, that’s where the safety net grew, but this year, the safety net isn’t growing, because the rest of the country is having a huge crop (yield). … It’s going to be tough sledding for some farmers here in Missouri, because we didn’t have any yield and we don’t have the price to go along with it.”
District technician for the Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation District, local livestock producer and farmer John Kirchhoff echoed that sentiment.
“It’s (the drought) pretty much localized over north-central Missouri,” Kirchhoff said. “We’re kind of going to take it in the shorts, whereas surrounding states won’t be impacted nearly as much.”
Niemeyer said that his family’s farms would be able to recuperate most the losses, but that famers in other parts of Missouri have been losing nearly all of their crop yield.
“For us, the corn is about two-thirds of what it would normally be,” Niemeyer said. “For the state of Missouri, we’re one of the fortunate ones. We caught some rain, but if you get over to the western part of the state, they almost had a total loss.”
Kirchhoff said that late rains have helped to balance out livestock production for the year, but that hay production will still be lacking and will create additional costs for livestock producers.
“There are still sellers from out of state that are selling hay in this part of Missouri,” Kirchhoff said. “There will be some late hay that will be put up, but I don’t know how it’s really going to turn out. As far as animal production, by the end of the year, we’ll be about where we’d usually be, but I think the quantity of hay available is going to come up short.”
Niemeyer said that his farms will likely take a hit on soybean production compared to other famers who planted later and benefited from the late rains.
“We planted (soybeans) early,” Niemeyer. “So we may not benefit from these late season rains as much as some of the guys who planted a little earlier. We’re going to take a hit on our bean yields. … At this point, we don’t know. With beans, it’s kind of hard to tell what you’re going to make until you actually put a combine out.”
Farmers with crop insurance can file claims to help cover crop loss. While large crop insurance claims can be helpful for farmers who have had low-yield harvests, they can have negative repercussions on the future by lowering the farmer’s annual production average. A farmer’s APA determines their insurance rates and payout on their claims.
Niemeyer said, fortunately, he would probably only need to take out a small claim, but that other farmers would likely take a hit on their APA by making a larger claim.
“On the insurance, each crop stands on its own,” Niemeyer said. “For us, it’ll be a small crop insurance claim, I think. You never know what you’ll get into until it’s all said and done. … For the guys over west who were hit worst with the drought, it’ll be a major claim. That’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving, because it hurts your APA next year. Crop insurance is leaving a lot of money laying on the table this year for what your coverage is, versus what your cost of production is.”
Recently the United States Department of Agriculture announced a Market Facilitation Program, which will allow farmers to receive government payments based on their yield. Niemeyer said that while good in theory, it is unlikely that the MFP will do much good for the average Missouri farmer. He said that because the payments are based on yield production, farmers most affected by the drought will not see much in terms of government subsidize.
“They are only doing 50 percent of your production… on soybeans,” Niemeyer said. “The corn thing, it’s a penny, that don’t mean nothing. That’s not going to help anybody. For soybeans, they’re going to pay you $1.65 a bushel on your production. Well, we may not have much production. In agriculture, bushels drive the market, but we don’t have the bushels. So we’re not going to get as much help from the government as somebody in Illinois who has a tremendous bean crop. … We’re sitting here with no yield, so we’re going to get less government assistance, because we didn’t raise as much. It kind of piles on you after a while.”
Kirchhoff said that often times with the federal programs, the farmers and livestock producers that need assistance the most do not get it. “It would would help, but it certainly wouldn’t buy enough (hay) to meet my needs,” Kirchhoff said. “
Kirchhoff said the federal programs often take a while to determine who is eligible and by the time smaller famers apply, the money can often be gone.
“It’s just one of those things,” Kirchhof said. “We’ve been through it before… prices up and down, yields up and down. Missouri farmers just kind of hang in there, make the best of it and hope for better next year.”