Farmers harvest kernals of hope

Early yield results of corn harvest bring mixed opinions, but the price doesn't seem to be affected by COVID-19 pandemic, trade or hurricanes.

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September 18, 2020 - 3:44 PM

How’s the corn harvest going so far this year? Turns out, the answer is more complicated than it seems, with farmers and employees at the Piqua CO-OP giving a range of answers.

Some, like farmer Zack McIntyre, haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary.

“Average,” he said, when asked for his appraisal of the season while parked at the weighing station. “About average.”

“It hasn’t been real exciting yet,” he laughed.

James Jacobs shows off a double handful of recently dumped corn.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

OTHERS, like Piqua CO-OP general manager Kevin Day, weren’t yet ready to make a judgment, and preferred to wait for more data to come in.

“We’re only in the beginning of it, … 10-15% into this crop … so we really can’t tell yet,” said Day, and he noted that answers might also vary depending on where a farmer’s given fields are located.

Hailstorms and rainfall — or lack thereof — have disproportionately affected some operations more harshly than others.

“Some of the corn is bigger,” he said. “[But] I don’t know, compared to last year, if we’re a whole lot different. Each individual farmer is going to have their own perspective.”

On Thursday, the price of corn was up 4 cents per bushel to $3.69, compared to $3.38 at this same time last year.

A combine harvests corn west of Iola near the Allen-Woodson line. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

This would seem good news thus far for farmers concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on trade or hurricanes, and it’s an appraisal Day seemed glad about as well.

“Far as agriculture goes, the feed, the fertilizer, chemicals, … we haven’t had any issue [since] agriculture is an essential business.”

As Day suggested, however, it is difficult to say what will happen moving forward, and to predict how local farmers may be affected by more global issues.

Stoney Martin and James Jacobs release corn from a truck into the grain elevator. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

TO GAIN additional insight into this year’s crop, this Register reporter also spoke to CO-OP employees who were loading and unloading feed corn outdoors at the silos.

Stoney Martin and James Jacobs had seen quite a few trucks pass through already, and so were able to provide an on-the-ground perspective.

“The trucks aren’t coming in as fast,” noted Martin, and said that drought was the likely culprit.

“I don’t think it’s near what it should be,” he added. “We should have lines of trucks.”

North of Piqua’s St. Martin’s Catholic Church sits a field of recently harvested corn.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

“We didn’t get the rain when we were supposed to,” agreed Jacobs, “when they were just about to start dropping their ears.”

“I could show you kernels from last year,” said Martin. “They were double. … You go out on the highway [today] and the corn is only 3-4 feet tall.”

“Should be like 7-8 foot,” remarked Jacobs, while holding his hand overhead in order to demonstrate.

“Beans will be a lot better than corn,” said Martin. “It’s not that corn is bad, just not as good as it could be.”

He estimated that most farmers are getting about 140 bushels per acre, whereas typical yield is closer to 180-200 bushels per acre.

“[But farmers still] have to turn in what they get,” Jacobs remarked. “If it’s really bad, they’ll turn it into their insurance, even if they bring it here.”

Shelley Wagner and Marci Weber weigh trucks and check moisture levels at the Piqua Farmers CO-OP.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Regardless of how good or poor any given crop might be, however, Jacobs noted how much he enjoys what he does for the CO-OP, and is excited to help out local farmers.

“I get to help people with their livelihood. That’s what I really enjoy,” he said.

“I know these farmers count on us. They need us to make their living. … People’s whole lives count on this place.”

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