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La Nina to continue to keep parts of Kansas dry

Jim Suber

By A Contributor

Here’s some skinny on the coming weather: experts are saying that the combination of the 18-year dry cycle and the continuation of the La Nina episode are going to join forces and cause more dryness this growing season in significant parts of Kansas, specifically the southwestern and south-central and central regions.

Supposedly, the dryness is expected to ease up over eastern Nebraska, but the hard red winter wheat region of the southern Plains and Central Plains will be affected again. The western regions of the Corn Belt; that is, Nebraska and eastern South Dakota, western Iowa and southern Minnesota, will probably need rain, the seers say…

Moving to more climate-type topics…the recent rearrangement of the hardiness zones to make the nation warmer, basically, has some implications, more and other experts said last week. For two things, the harmful insects and diseases will be striking sooner and in greater numbers than they did 10 years ago. The 10-year period is based on the temperature readings in winter the last 10 years from which the government derived the data to support moving the winter hardiness zones northward a few degrees. The good news is that agronomists think plant breeding the last 10 years has incorporated acclimation to the new zones in the crops that winter over, like wheat and alfalfa…

And, given the last two years of drought, many farmers are again going to need to water their crops more than what their water rights would ordinarily allow without some kind of waivers. It is to be hoped here that the state will allow this to happen, then when and if we ever get some more wet years, the guys can cut back on using it and build back up some kind of allotment or pool, if you will, of water for the next dry times. That might be too simple and make too much commonsense to satisfy the regulators…

Now that the administration wants to cut $33 billion from the direct supporting of farmers over the next 10 years, it is fitting that last year’s farm income report from the government revealed that net income, receipts and net cash incomes are down for farmers and ranchers while expenses are expected to rise this year by $10 billion.

Already, there is great pressure on the ethanol industry, mainly because Brazil has reversed course on its ethanol use and therefore halved its imports of ethanol from the United States. Moreover, the old blenders’ subsidy is gone as of the first of this year here, and some analysts are saying that each time the gap between high priced gasoline and ethanol prices grows as big as it is now, the price of crude oil and gasoline drop way down, citing reversals in 2008 among others. Some expect that to happen again whenever Iran decides to quit playing games with the world by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. So, the demand for ethanol falls off the face of the earth and farmers here plant 95 million acres of corn and it yields well, prices for corn could also fall dramatically in the coming months.

So, loss of government help, low and dropping market prices for corn, huge increases in input costs and a big crop could add up to a crummy year for corn growers, given that the cost per acre to raise commercial corn on good land in central Illinois two years ago reached $500 an acre. Where they try to grow wheat in central Kansas as professionally as possible, the input costs are also high. So if the yields are not whopping, and the prices are slumped, as they seem to be right now, the joy of farming could turn to consternation.

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