Farmers were tossed a tough spring to get into the fields and a bear of a fall to get their harvest out in 2019.

Winter soon reared its ugly head and as farmers enter 2020 there's a fair amount of corn still standing in our region. Mark Hess, agronomist at Leaf River Ag, said farmers in this area of the Midwest can count what blessings they have in comparison to those areas with heavier soil.

He estimates all soybeans made it in and about 80% of corn made it into bins before a foot of snow put a stop to harvest at the end of November. In comparison, estimates are that 50-60% of North Dakota corn is still standing. Meanwhile the Red River Valley watched about a third of their sugar beets freeze in the ground.

Hess said the difficulties of spring 2019 for Leaf River Ag was getting product available for farmers. They rely on product coming up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. That river didn't open up until July thanks to epic flooding from Minnesota all the way to the Gulf.

"What saved us is 1 million acres was preventative planting acres," Hess said. Since many farmers couldn't get into the fields, the product was able to move to areas where the seed could go into the ground, like the sandy soils where the prairie meets the woods.

Mark Hess
Mark Hess

But not all areas locally could get into the fields early. Areas around Bertha, New Yorks Mills and Sebeka with some heavier soils didn't get out until the first of June. Once in the field, the growing degree units (GDU) were slow with not a whole lot of warm sunny days. Fall was no better as rains brought up water levels and never let them drop. That moisture, even in sandy soils meant disease hit a number of farm fields bringing mold to many corn fields.

"Just a struggle," Hess said.

Those that got their crop in likely had to use more heat to dry out the grains, which came at a time when many households were cranking up thermostats.

"It went from fall to winter in about an afternoon," Hess said.

With so many variables against area farmers, Hess said the farmer has to be optimistic to keep after it. He's optimistic that the various tariffs will be lifted to hopefully bring back some higher prices for farmers.

"I think we'll see some of that come back to the local farmers," Hess said. "I think most farmers have to hone their skills, marketing a crop better."

In a business where most owners are operating around break even, anything that can be done to improve odds must be pursued. And in years where the odds are against you, he said it's important to count what blessings you have.