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Farm News & Views - October 25, 2022

While dry weather in the Midwest is helping farmers to harvest corn and soybeans ahead of the average pace, its still too early to tell how much crop yield share suffered because of dry topsoil conditions in the region. Last week, while traveling in northern Illinois, Indiana, and southern Michigan, I was able to watch corn harvest in progress on a couple of farms closeup, since I was offered rides in combines on both farms. Lately, most corn and soybean fields are planted in the spring using field maps based on GPS coordinates, which directs telemetry on tractors to plant seed in rows that are then followed by harvest equipment in the fall. While combines aren’t autonomous, the guidance systems helps operators to align the combines to most efficiently harvest all of the crop in a field. The combines I rode in moved down four rows at a time at maybe four or five miles per hour, cutting the stalks, stripping off the ears, shelling the corn from the cobs, sending the grain to a tank behind the cab, and ejecting the stalks and cobs back into the field behind the machines. Computers in the cab kept track of how many bushels per acre were being harvested, moisture level of the grain, and other data that the farmers were interested in noting. Different headers are used on these machines for harvesting soybeans or grain crops like wheat, oats, or barley. Watching the harvest from the jump seat of those machines was like watching the choreography of a dance. As the grain tank on the combine began to reach full capacity, a light on the top of the combine would flash,signaling the driver of a tractor pulling a grain cart to pull up beside the combine. The combine operator would extend a grain auger over the side of the grain cart and offload the corn from the tank, while both combine and cart continued to move along the field. Once the tank was empty, the tractor and grain cart would peel off to receive the grain from a second combine operating in the field. The process would be repeated until the cart was filled. While the combines continued harvesting, the cart met up with a truck waiting to receive the grain cart’s cargo. The grain cart then returned to the field, and the routine was repeated over and over again with very little downtime for either the grain carts or the combines.

Economists are warning consumers that they can expect to pay record high prices at the grocery store for turkey this upcoming holiday season due to the impacts of highly pathogenic avian influenza and inflation. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the retail price for fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast reached a record high of $6.70 per pound in September, that’s 112% higher than the same time in 2021. The previous record high price was $5.88 per pound in November 2015, which was also caused by an outbreak of a highly pathogenic avian influenza. But there should be enough turkeys available for the Thanksgiving demand. Agricultural economists point out that farmers aren’t profiting from the record high retail prices, because they have high costs of inputs like feed,fuel,fertilizer and labor that is making turkey production more expensive.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If your riches are yours, why don’t you take them to the other world.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.