After a long winter, unusual spring rainfall patterns and summer drought, farmers knew that their incomes in 2018 would be affected. The USDA even expected the farm sector net farm income in 2018 to decline $9.8 billion (13 percent) from 2017. Worse yet, the USDA predicted that "total production expenses, including operator dwellings, are forecast to increase $11.8 billion."
How is a farmer supposed to break even when production expenses increase, and their incomes decrease?
Farmers feed the world. But what happens when farmers can't feed their livestock or afford to plant crops? This is a question that all too many farmers, not just in Kansas, are having to ask themselves.
Unpredictable weather conditions increase how difficult it is for farmers to survive.
From December 25th, 2017 to January 8th, 2018 temperatures dropped to more than 25 degrees below normal in some areas. This can be devastating for livestock producers.
Colder temperatures mean that chores require added effort since water sources must be thawed. Even worse, imagine walking outside to see that a cow had her calf only for the calf to catch pneumonia or freeze to death.
Most farmers know to expect the unexpected, but how long do they have to withstand getting knocked off their feet?
After a dry, harsh winter, farmers faced unusual spring rainfall patterns. Farmers knew that if they didn't get rain in spring, the drought from 2017 would get worse in 2018. Unfortunately, what the farmers knew became true.
In July 2018, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer updated the Drought Declaration for Kansas counties. This update had 50 counties in emergency status, 27 in warning status and 28 in watch status.
All 105 counties in Kansas were in drought or abnormally dry.
This led to livestock water and feed shortages, struggling crops and overall anxiety about how farmers would survive. Unfortunately, farmers should have been careful with what they wished for during this time.
Heavy rain hit parts of Kansas in September and caused flooding. Flooding that would kill crops and slow production since farmers couldn't walk in their fields without getting stuck, let alone replant crops using heavy machinery.
What farmers didn't know is that "fall" would continue to make things worse.
Fall, if you can even call it that, has seemed more like winter for Kansas farmers. Kansans were hit with unusually early snow October 15th that broke a record set 120 years ago for Kansas City.
Fall crops like soybeans were looking hopeful for farmers until unusual weather conditions led to harvest delays. To make things even worse, pod shattering can occur before soybeans are even harvested when there's alternation of dry and wet periods.
Since farmers haven't been able to harvest soybeans as anticipated, they haven't been able to plant some of their wheat as hoped.
The USDA sets final planting dates which are the dates when crops must be initially planted to be insured for the full production guarantee or amount of insurance per acre. Crops planted after these dates are in the "late planting period" and are ineligible for full insurance protection.
This means that farmers are losing money every day that they are unable to get into the fields. Consequently, many farmers are wondering what their next move should be. But one thing is certain.
After an already unpredictable year, fall 2018 has farmers wishing they weren't in Kansas anymore.