Farmer Iron

Looking Beyond the Drought

Moving beyond 2012 will be possible - difficult for some - but possible.

There's no sense being Pollyanna about this weather. With 63% of the country now locked up in a drought, combined with record-breaking heat, this season's weather is truly the gift that keeps on giving. It's so bad that we should stop comparing this to 1988, but reach farther back. But with the average farmer aged 56-plus, 1988 is all we can remember.

As we watch corn yields wither and pray for a spot of rain to save the soybeans, it's time to look to 2013 and plan ahead. Sounds a little crazy, but essentially a little forward-thinking now could pay off next year. The right planning now will keep your farm open to new opportunities next year -and there's a good chance you'll get those opportunities.

With 85% of the U.S. crop covered by insurance, versus 25% during the 1988 drought (there was no crop insurance in the 1950s or the 1930s) incomes will dip. However, we're coming off the best five years in agricultural income history into this year's catastrophe and chances are good that most balance sheets are still solid thanks to refreshed savings accounts.

I was traveling in Wisconsin recently and heard some pretty scary stories about this crop. The state isn't as hard hit as Illinois, but the pineapple - I mean corn crop - looks a stressed, and short. Yet the farmers telling me their stories weren't whining about the weather or hard times. In fact, there was a chuckle now and then and even a smile.

I realize this is an equipment blog, but I want to touch on the resilience of my readers. Those Wisconsin farmers who were quick to smile at a joke, and looked at a shorter crop and challenges feeding livestock while keeping their sense of humor restored my faith in what you do. Realistic farmers who know that weather is the biggest curve ball pitched your way every season have made it through Dust Bowls, record flooding and more to grow us food.

This year, there will be challenges that could be costly to some operations despite crop insurance. We'll see a few farms go by the wayside, but keep in mind that those acres won't be abandoned and sit idle. That land will be farmed by someone who is prepared to pick up the slack. If you're one of those farmers, who may see more land come up for rent (or purchase) keep that equipment buying plan in place. Stalling out now could hinder your chances of expansion, and machinery is still the most efficient investment in your farm's productivity.

If you're hanging in, but not expanding, consider ways new tech could be added now to improve farm productivity further, and lower your cost of production. Challenging years offer you a chance to do a mental management reset; find the ways to increase efficiency and create an even better business. In fact, it's time to start thinking about how you'll thrive in 2013.

Disagree, agree, have your own input? Make a comment below.

And if you want to keep up on the drought from around the country, visit where we're bringing all our drought coverage together. And you'll find a daily video from Farm Broadcaster Max Armstrong, Farm Futures Senior Bryce Knorr, Agricultural Meteorologist Greg Soulje and more to help keep you informed daily.

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