For the past few days now, I’ve been receiving notes and Facebook posts from grower-friends talking about the end of the harvest season. Some areas of the country have seen their first snows (and stored their harvest equipment as a result). Others have simply finished harvesting for the year, keeping in mind that many prevent plant acres across the nation severely reduced the number of fields that needed harvesting in the first place.
No matter the situation, I’m pretty sure many growers and their ag retailers can empathize with a Facebook post from my friend, John Reifsteck of Reifsteck Farms in Illinois, when it comes to the year that has been. “Harvest 2019 is over,” wrote Reifsteck. “I have been farming for a lot of years. Each year is unique. This year was more unique than I care for!”
As years in agriculture tend to go, 2019 was certainly unique – for all the wrong reasons! The industry started the year with a trade war between the U.S. and China. This negatively impacted the ability of U.S. growers to sell many of their crops for the year (and kept commodity prices depressed as well). There was also a government shutdown (which now seems like a minor thing compared with what else went on during 2019).
Once this was resolved and the government reopened for business, most in agriculture were probably hoping to quickly get into the fields and begin the 2019 growing season. However, Mother Nature had other plans. Across much of the country, cool/wet weather prevented planting from taking place. Indeed, by mid-June, there were still many large plots of cropland in states such as Ohio, Indiana, and South Dakota that remained unplanted. In fact, in the end, some 19 million acres of cropland ended up as “prevent plant” – one of the most popular phrases uttered across the heartland in 2019.
With a shorter growing season to work with, many growers were hoping that first frosts/snows would hold off “longer than normal.” However, in the end, these tended to show up as they always have – just before Halloween.
In conclusion, I agree entirely with Reifsteck’s assessment of 2019. I hope never again to see such a uniquely forgettable year for agriculture!