Harvest season means grain movement, from fields to trucks on roadways and then often times on to the U.S. inland waterway system where grain is shipped to world markets. This year there is a problem though. Dry weather has led to the lowest river levels in decades.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition says the Mississippi River has been particularly impacted.
“It couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. As we proceed more and more into harvest season, there’s just so much freight, soybeans, grain, that’s flowing to the river. And the goal is for it to be loaded onto a barge and then moved down to the New Orleans area, where it’s loaded onto an ocean vessel for the export market. And we’ve just had persistent low water levels, and it’s getting more and more acute.”
Steenhoek says shipping has been slowed by channel depth and channel width, both less than ideal, and with less water, not as much freight can be loaded on that barge.
“I was concerned that you might have a grounding of that barge, and we’ve had multiple occasions of that already, and one was reported on the Ohio River, so that’s something that continues to happen. For one foot less of water depth for a barge, that compels you to load for soybeans 5,000 fewer bushels of soybeans per barge, and a typical barge can easily accommodate 50,000 bushels of soybeans. So, you’re looking at about a ten percent reduction in the freight capacity of a barge just due to one foot of less water. And, we’re already seeing in certain stretches of the river a reduction of two feet or greater than what normally would occur, so it’s very concerning.”
Because of the limited channel width, the shipping channel has narrowed and traffic is scaled down. Where once 30, 35, even 40 barges could be put together to move as one single unit down to export terminals near New Orleans, the maximum limit is now 25 barges.
“So it impacts the economics of moving freight via barge, and that’s one of the things that makes barge transportation so compelling, is the ability to move a lot of product long distances economically. And that performance has diminished lately, and it couldn’t come at a worse time.”
The low river level problem has been building for many months, starting even before a spring and summer where precipitation amounts were well below what was needed.
“We were noticing lower snowfall amounts in the Missouri River area. And, as many of us know, the water that we see on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis originated as a snowflake in a place like Montana, and so much of that snow melt does filter into the Missouri River Basin, eventually connecting with the Mississippi River at St. Louis, so we saw that materializing even this past winter.”
These river levels are approaching lows not seen since around 1988.
Indiana soybean harvest is moving right along and ramped up corn harvest should be following. Early returns suggest yields will be varied, just as the quality of the crop was variable throughout the season.
“In my complete professional experience, I’m seeing more variability in these yields than I can recollect over those multi decades,” says analyst Mike Silver of Kokomo Grain.
The recent run of nearly perfect weather has allowed for significant progress to be made.
“We do have some producers that here in the next day or so we’re going to wrap up completely their soybean harvest and move deeper into corn. So, harvest pace is accelerating, although it does lag the five year average at this point.”
Based on reports he receives from their multiple terminals around the state, including Howard, Tippecanoe, Pulaski, Madison, Miami, Johnson and Bartholomew Counties, Silver says soybean yields are “perhaps better than expected” although still variable.
“The late August rains really helped the soybean crop,” he told HAT. “Still extreme variability depending on who got the rain and when, but soybean yields are coming in pretty well across Indiana. The corn yields, there’s variability in that, but we’re seeing some surprisingly good corn yields. We’re off from the five year APH histories, but there are some instances that I can document that some folks have yields as good as last year and a few folks have some of the best ever yields. But again, it depends on planting date and timeliness of rains and the other stressors that were in the market during the summer.”
And where does the evidence suggest those better yields are coming from?
“In the northern tier counties across the state, the yields are the best and that’s where the majority of those near record or record yields are. Here in portions of northwest central Indiana, yields are better than we thought they were going to be at the time of the Pro Farmer tour. They’re better.”
The two V-words are getting a lot of attention during harvest season. Variability in yields is the norm in early reports, and volatility in the markets is here for the foreseeable future.
It is a time of year where USDA supply and demand and crop production reports combine with crop ratings reports and yield data to impact market direction. With wide swings in other markets the dynamic has shifted somewhat.
“I think harvest is going to get overshadowed by the by the macro markets and the money flow and this is an era where we’re very headline driven,” says Arlan Suderman at StoneX. “Perhaps USDA will be able to shock us one way or the other on October 12,”
Brian Basting at Advance Trading points to the dollar value and the stock market as major players this fall.
“The dollar is at a 20-year high,” he explained. “So obviously that makes our exports of all crops, of any commodity more expensive to a foreign buyer. That is negative to the market and obviously there are ongoing concerns here about the equity market slipping back again and concerns about the recession possibility as we wrap up 2022-23. That’s impossible to predict at this point, but all those things are leaning more towards the negative side. So, it’s a fascinating environment.”
Basting says it can all lead to historical levels of volatility.
“Because it’s not just supply and demand of corn and beans and wheat. It is the outside markets, and I didn’t even mention the Black Sea situation, what’s going on with Ukraine and Russia in terms of their corn exports and wheat exports, the export corridor. I believe the agreement is set to expire about November 20th. Will that be renewed? Will that agreement even survive to November 20th? No one knows. And so that’s a huge influence and we have not even mentioned as we get into our corn harvest, South American weather. It is crucial now that we get a big corn and bean harvest in Brazil and Argentina here the next six months or so.”
He says that is far from a given as they just begin planting there.
Harvest season is here in Indiana and across the Corn Belt, and that means it’s time to pay extra attention on rural roadways. Farmers will be doing that as they move from field to field and motorists are asked to do the same.
Sergeant John Perrine, Indianapolis District Public Information Officer for the Indiana State Police and Indiana farmer Nick Starkey from near Lebanon have joined Hoosier Ag Today and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture to help emphasize the need for road safety. They’re part of the 2022 harvest safety video now live at the HAT YouTube channel.
“Well, certainly roadway safety is our number one priority,” says ISP’s Perrine. “Our goal is that everybody can be safe while they’re traveling on Indiana roadways. And this time of year, throughout Indiana, we see a lot of farm equipment on the roadways. It’s important that people have a plan and know what to do when they approach that equipment.”
If you are willing to be patient with a situation you may encounter, you’re already putting safety first.
“Absolutely comes down to patience,” he says. “These farmers want to get from A to B just like you do, and so by working together it can be safer for everybody. Give them a chance to find a safe place for them to pull over. Also give yourself a chance to find a safe place to pass them.”
Starkey donated his time, equipment, on-camera talent and expensive diesel fuel for the video project. But a safe harvest makes for the perfect payback.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s super important and it’s something that’s even more important to me now that I’m a father, and I think about it more, about being safe and making sure I make it home in the evenings and also understanding just the amount of power that we have behind the wheel with this big equipment,” Starkey told HAT. “It has the potential to create a lot of damage, create a lot of problems. So, we’re trying to be aware and also promote other drivers being aware of something that they’re not used to, passing a combine, tractor, stuff like that.”
Do you need another reason to be cautious and patient approaching farm equipment? The farmer’s ability to see everything around him is not perfect.
“The technology has come a long way to where we have some extra cameras to where we can see behind us, things like that, but there’s definitely blind spots. We’re driving down the road with corn heads folded up, and that creates a lot of blind areas out in front of us. So, objects that may be smaller or pedestrians are sometimes difficult to see or impossible to see. So yeah, there’s definitely blind spots and areas you can’t see, depending on the equipment.”
Harvest is kicking in across the west-central part of Indiana with a lot of group 2 soybeans being cut. Shad Schenck, a dealer for Specialty Hybrids, believes just about everyone will be in the field next week, certainly by the end of the week. He tells HAT the soybean crop should be the best story in that part of the state.
“Soybean yields include a lot around 65 bushels,” he said. “We have seen some 70’s consistently on a few beans, and that’s pretty promising for those farms and where they’re at. I look for soybean yields to be better than corn yields overall and become the best on peoples’ farms.”
Schenk said there are some early corn yield numbers coming in too.
“There has been some 97-day corn, some 103-day corn taken out that were in the 200-bushel range, a little below APH, but we’ve also seen our 39G569, one of the most dominant 109-day corns around, and it is showing some really good yields up in the 240’s. I even saw a 250.”
That corn was about 27% moisture and falling quickly.
“Later this week we could see some of that corn below 25% and that will give people the opportunity to get that out,” he said.
There are some positive factors with these crops that should help limit a need for urgency this fall.
“There is not a lot of disease out there,” Schenk explained. “We just started to see tar spot last week in some areas. It’s too late to be detrimental to yield, it’s not going to hurt standability, we don’t see the root rots or anything like that, so that’s a blessing. We don’t have a 300-bushel ear hanging on that stalk, so it will stand better because of that, but it’s going to stand better because we have more fungicide applications from farmers clear throughout central Indiana here which made the difference, and less disease on the crop. So, we want to get it out. You don’t want to wait until Christmas by all means, but it’s not going to be a panic mode like last year where a lot of corn was going down.”
Further limiting that feeling of urgency, HAT Chief Meteorologist Ryan Martin says there should not be a protracted harvest season. We are now in a lengthy harvest window with lots of work getting done in the coming weeks.
The update is sponsored by Specialty Hybrids. At Specialty Hybrids, it’s your field, our Specialty. Find your local field sales representative and dealer online at www.specialtyhybrids.com
A Federal Milk Marketing Order Forum will bring together the dairy industry next month in Kansas City, Missouri. The American Farm Bureau Federation encourages anyone and everyone in the dairy industry to attend the, and AFBF Economist Danny Munch says the event hopes to bring the dairy industry into one room for open discussions.
“It consists of four half day segments,” he explains. “Each of those segments will start with a panel of industry leaders and expert speakers who will discuss specific dairy policies like Class I pricing issues. And that will be followed by a corresponding roundtable session where all of our attendees will engage with each other directly to share ideas and thoughts.”
Munch says there will be a variety of speakers and attendees.
“We have a really strong program at the conference, several professors including Dr. Marin Bozic from the University of Minnesota and Dr. Chris Wolff from Cornell University. We also have the Deputy Administrator of USDA AMS dairy programs, Dana Coale, joining us, as well as representatives of Schreiber Foods, Kroger, Land O’Lakes and a bunch of cooperatives. Our state presidents and members are also going to be active in the programming as well, so we’ll have a nice, diverse program for the conference.”
Munch says those interested in attending should register this week.
“The forum is open to all dairy industry participants whether they are a processor, exporter, farmer, etc. Our members are trying to create an environment of collaboration and understanding so all segments of the supply chain are heard,” Munch said. “Our hotel deadline is actually approaching, it’s this Friday the (September) 23rd. Folks can search Federal Milk Marketing Order Forum in any search engine, and it’ll pop up. You can register (here) and get your hotel there and reach that deadline of this Friday.”
The conference takes place October 14-16 in Kansas City, Missouri.
While some 2022 harvest operations are underway, parts of the Eastern Corn Belt have to wait just a little longer to get a good start.
“We’re a few weeks away from full scale harvest activity,” says Justin Schneider, Sales Agronomist for LG Seeds, who says a lot of silage has been coming off the last week to two weeks in southern Michigan and northern Indiana. “They’ve started here in the last week, here in kind of the central Michigan, northern half chopping. Dry beans are coming off at a pretty rapid rate, starting now also. But soybeans are probably a week to two weeks out and field corn probably two to three weeks, possibly a month yet.”
Schneider says this period of waiting gives growers more time to plan harvest based on scouting their fields. He adds, this year scouting is a big deal.
“Pretty much after planning, we didn’t see much rain till about that end of July time frame. So our corn crop especially was in some pretty droughty conditions,” he explained. “With that being said, that corn crop started to cannibalize itself a little bit earlier. So, with that earlier stalk cannibalization, the local agronomist and I are a little concerned with stalk quality. All these guys know fuel prices are at record highs for the most part in some areas. So, they’re going to try to leave this corn crop out there to dry down the most it can, but I’m stressing to everybody, make sure we start scouting once we hit black layer and kind of every 10 days after that to really make sure we’re not losing money with downed corn or other situations.”
He estimates corn yields will be average at best this year. Because of timely rains in August though, the soybean crop could be better than average. On the management side, due to heavy tar spot pressure last year, fungicide applications this year have improved plant health. Schneider says the many who sprayed at tassel or brown silk made decisions that gave their corn plants a big assist to get through those droughty conditions.
More from LG Seeds:
Get Ready for Harvest with These Scouting Tips Scouting is especially critical in drought areas prone to stalk issues, say LG Seeds agronomists WESTFIELD, Indiana – Scouting fields ahead of harvest helps farmers avoid the hassle and slowdown associated with downed corn. “Avoiding those issues limits time in the field, saving them fuel, time and labor,” says Justin Schneider, an LG Seeds agronomist in Michigan. “Natural gas prices are extremely high, and the best way to leave your corn out there in the field the longest is to scout.”
The potential is certainly there for stalk issues in Michigan and other areas of the country that have dealt with heat and dryness. That includes dryland and irrigated corn farmers in Nebraska who withstood a blustery spring followed by summer heat and dryness, says Mark Grundmayer, an agronomist with LG Seeds in the state. He says hot nights during pollination and 90-degree temperatures as the calendar flipped to September won’t help the situation.
Start scouting now and keep at it Now is a great time to start scouting fields for potential harvest issues, the agronomists say. After establishing that baseline, farmers should check fields every week to 10 days. “And then once we hit black layer, get out there and assess to prioritize fields for harvest and be as efficient as possible,” Schneider says.
“If you are in a drought, plants start to cannibalize themselves from the ground up a bit earlier,” Schneider warns. “Those farmers will likely be dealing with some stalk lodging issues.”
“Under any kind of stress, whether that’s stalk rot, green snap, a late hailstorm or disease-causing loss of the leaf area, we want to get as much harvested while it’s still standing as possible. That might mean an early harvest,” says Grundmayer.
Corn tends to have the most stalk lodging issues once it dries to the low 20s or high teens, according to Schneider. “If you see some problematic-looking fields, consider harvesting when moisture is in the mid-20s.”
Evaluate stalk integrity with a push or pinch test. A push or pinch test can help identify problem fields. Schneider explains the push test as follows: “Once you hit black layer, walk through your cornfields, stand next to the cornstalk and push it an arm’s length away. When you let go, you hope it comes back and hits you in the nose. If it kinks, breaks or falls over, assess what percent is doing that. If it’s 5% to 10% of the plants, you may need to harvest that field sooner than others.”
With the pinch test, Schneider explains a farmer simply pinches the cornstalk from chin-high down to the bottom couple of nodes on the cornstalk. “If you’re able to pinch it together with ease, that’s telling you the stalk is hollow inside. If threatening weather (e.g., high winds) is forecast, you may want to get out there and harvest that grain a bit wetter than you normally would.”
Besides prioritizing fields and possibly moving up harvest, farmers with downed corn should adjust the combine so it picks up all that it possibly can, in addition to making changes to account for a smaller kernel size caused by drought. “There’s a lot of money on the line, so you don’t want anything riding out the back,” Schneider says.
If a field has a lot of lodging issues, recognize the threat of volunteer corn the following season and adjust rotation and herbicide plans accordingly, he adds.
Review and improve The reasons for scouting your corn crop late in the season go well beyond harvest. “Late-season scouting is like watching game film,” Grundmayer says. “It gives you a chance to evaluate things like your fertility program, fungicide decisions, hybrid selection and weed control. You can assess what went well and where changes are needed.”
When it comes to selections for 2023, Grundmayer says farmers in the West are going to be focused on which products handled stress well, noting there isn’t a lot of disease in his area due to the hot, dry season. “Ultimately, it’s going to come back to stalk quality and whether or not a hybrid was able to handle stress.”
Grundmayer says LG5700 “has maintained good plant health and stalk quality, despite heat and dryness.”
“Whether or not you’re using our products, LG Seeds agronomists are here to help you evaluate your hybrids and crops,” Schneider says. “Assess your game plan and let’s figure out how we can improve on that going forward.”
Whatever the sector and whatever the geography, qualified employees are in demand and hard to find. For Indiana agriculture, that is a problem. So, the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo has partnered with the Indiana State department of Agriculture (ISDA) to host an agricultural career fair as part of the annual Expo in December.
“The first thing everybody talks about if you say what are your concerns or what are your issues, the first thing they say is, and has been now for over a year is labor,” says Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler.
“Whether it’s on the farm or farm equipment dealers, feed suppliers, crop input suppliers, they all say the same thing, and it’s one of the reasons I was excited that you’re going to have a career fair. I think everybody understands the need for good people, for qualified people. And so being able to have that at the Farm Equipment Expo is just I think a great tie in for what we hear from all the folks that we talk to.”
Kettler is concerned, as are employers, over the length of this labor shortage. It started with Covid lockdowns but doesn’t seem to be improving.
“Everybody you talk to does not have a good, real positive outlook,” Kettler tells HAT. “And that’s what concerns me. You know sometimes you might hear people say, oh yeah, things are getting a little better, supply chains are maybe improving a little bit. The labor piece of this does not seem to be getting much better for anybody.”
But for someone looking for a great job in agriculture, there are excellent options.
“I think that’s why the career fair was an important part to us as a department to try to maybe find a way for us to be able to get to a little different crowd, people that we would talk to, our stakeholders within the department. And absolutely, it does present some real opportunities.”
The one-day career fair at the Indiana Farm Expo is Thursday, December 15, from 9am to 1pm at the Grand Park Event Center in Westfield, IN, the Expo home for the second year.
Companies interested in participating at the Ag Career Fair should contact Gary Truitt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Priority will be given to companies exhibiting at the Expo. Other companies may participate if space is available. The Expo runs from December 13th through the 15th.
Full news release from the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo:
Farm Show and ISDA to Host Ag Career Fair to Help with Labor Shortage
The Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo in partnership with the Indiana State department of Agriculture (ISDA) will host an agricultural career fair as part of its annual Expo in December. The one-day event will give Indiana agribusinesses the chance to interview potential candidates for their open positions. It will also expose those not familiar with careers in agriculture to the opportunities there are in this field. The career fair will take place on Thursday, December 15, from 9am to 1pm at the Grand Park Event Center in Westfield, IN where the Expo is being held.
“Labor is one of the biggest challenges facing Hoosier ag companies today,” said Gary Truitt, President of the annual Expo. “Many of our exhibitors have multiple openings for a wide variety of positions.” Many of these positions require mechanical, computer, and electronic skills; but there are also many in the service side as well. Familiarity with agriculture and farming are not always needed; and, in many cases, training is provided.
“Agriculture contributes more than $31 billion to the Hoosier economy, so it’s critical that we help the Hoosier ag industry find staff,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, who also serves as Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. “We are happy to partner with Hoosier Ag Today to help attract people into this vital industry.”
Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler went on to say, “This career fair will be an amazing opportunity for anyone looking for a new career or to continue their career in agriculture. We know that labor is an issue statewide and especially within certain agriculture sectors. I am excited for Hoosiers and agri-businesses to benefit from this unique career search opportunity,” Kettler added.
A special room just off the Expo trade show floor will be set up with representatives from a large number of companies willing to talk with prospective applicants. Those attending the career fair can also visit the Expo to gain further exposure to the careers possible in the industry of agriculture. There is no cost of admission to the career fair, and the Expo and parking at Grand Park are free. The Grand Park Event Center is located at 19000 Grand Park Blvd, Westfield, IN 46074. The Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo will run from December 13 – 15. Expo hours are 9am -4pm on Tuesday and Wednesday and 9am- 3pm on Thursday. For more information, visit indianafarmexpo.com.
Companies interested in participating at the Ag Career Fair should contact Gary Truitt at email@example.com. Priority will be given to companies exhibiting at the Expo. Other companies may participate if space is available. Companies interested in exhibiting at the expo should contact Toni Hodson at Toni Hodson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo
The Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo is the joint venture of the two largest, agricultural media organizations in Indiana: Hoosier Ag Today and Farm World Newspaper. In 2018, the two organizations formed Midwest Ag Events, LLC and purchased the Indiana-Illinois Farm Equipment and Outdoor Power Show from Richard Sherman, who had owned and operated the show for 40 years. The show’s name was changed and its focus expanded to encompass new developments in technology that impact production agriculture. With expanding show attendance and the increasing size of farm equipment, the Expo decided to relocate to the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana. The Expo is held in December each year after farmers have completed their production season and as they begin to plan for the next year. More than just a trade show, the Expo features a free seminar series with informational programs covering top issues and also new trends and developments in agriculture. There is no charge for the 3-day event. More information can be found at indianafarmexpo.com.
Broadband access in rural communities has improved over the years, but there is more work to be done to provide access for Indiana rural residents. Indiana Farm Bureau will keep this at the forefront of their priorities as precision agriculture grows and rural lifestyles demand the access.
The access is important, it should be high quality broadband, but Katrina Hall with INFB says it is a work in progress.
“There has been a lot of progress made, but we’ve really been advocating for this for almost 10 years and of course everybody knows the pandemic brought the needs of everyone for higher quality broadband into focus.”
Hall tells HAT they’ve been promoting broadband long enough that they have a good grasp of what improvements are needed and how to secure them. Those additions were reflected in the recent policy book update for 2023.
“Most of the things we added were aimed towards leveraging the federal money that’s coming down the pike. There are several different pots of money that are coming from the feds, but also the money that the state has set aside for broadband grants and so forth. Really, we’re just trying to make sure that that money goes as far as it can and to be as flexible as it can, because one thing we have learned over especially the last couple of years is that it isn’t really one-size-fits-all.”
She adds it takes many stakeholders working together to achieve proper connectivity across Indiana. Indiana Farm Bureau is a part of that.
Hall, the Senior Director of Policy Strategy and Advocacy for INFB, also says take the speed test available on their website if you have not already. The data gathered from that is important in determining the exact needs and locations of un or underserved areas.
Indiana Farm Bureau delegates wanted change to their policy book concerning portable storage trailers being considered actual facilities. After much discussion, adjustments to the stated policy were made last weekend at the delegate meeting.
During discussion one delegate described the situation of three mini bulk storage containers on a one-axle trailer. Jeff Cummins with INFB explained, “Essentially that renders it immobile, so the Office of the State Chemist is saying, OK, you can’t move that. That’s pretty close to permanent. That’s a facility. We’re going to call you a storage facility. And the state chemist is already considering creating or increasing the exemption for the amount of gallons you can have temporarily on your farm and not be labeled a storage facility.”
Questions were then asked if the number of gallons should be addressed or a specific time span.
“Do we need 45 days versus trying to get up to 10,000 gallons? The Office of the State Chemist is considering raising that exemption to 10,000 gallons. But if those three containers that that guy had on the trailer could hold theoretically 12,000 or 15,000, he’d still be over capacity because they’re not really looking at what you truly have in there. It’s what you could have, so he could still potentially be in a violation.”
Delegates landed on putting a time frame of 45 days allowed for temporary on-farm storage in the policy book.
“And that gives guys the time to move it and get it out, and they’re not really keeping it around for much longer than that anyway,” he said. “We want to create some flexibility without creating additional environmental risk, and so I think this short window of time can probably do that.”
And Cummins work promoting the policy now begins right away.
“The Office of State Chemist is planning to form a working group. That probably will kick off at the next meeting of the Fertilizer Advisory Board on Friday, September 9th. I will be there, and I think a couple of the guys from Warrick County will be there and we’ll probably call together some of our policy advisory group members to make sure they have some input, maybe the production ag or maybe the environmental policy advisory group. But we will probably call those guys together to get some input on what exactly that needs to be. At least we have a framework now in the policy book that says, here’s kind of what we think we’d like to achieve. Let’s see if we can get that done in the working group.”
Cummins told HAT he was pleased with the guidance added to the policy book and optimistic of a positive outcome with the Office of the State Chemist. That’s an office Farm Bureau works with very closely.
Cummins is Director of State Government Relations at Indiana Farm Bureau.