What a difference a month makes. Last month I was writing about April being one of the coldest on record, soil temperatures were cold and in some areas fields were so wet it and the cold soils were also delaying planting. Other parts of the state were suffering from drought conditions and farmers were praying for a good rain to bring on the crops they already had planted.
Well, if planting was behind schedule statewide in early May, it certainly caught up quickly and is now ahead of last year and the average. Corn and soybean planting were both done early in the month. For livestock producers, calving and lambing also finished early.
Farm Challenge #1 - Dry Conditions
There are two big challenges on the horizon for farmers. The first is the lack of precipitation. As I wrote this the last few days of May, there were some general rains that covered a lot of the state. But many areas are still suffering from below average precipitation with the worst of this in the southeast corner of the state from around Kearney south to the Kansas border and then east and south of the Platte River.
Above is the latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Although things are not great in southeast Nebraska, we are still better than a lot of our neighbors from Kansas to Texas and west to Arizona and Utah. Hopefully this severe drought area will not expand into Nebraska.
Farm Challenge #2 - Ag Economy
The other big challenge for farmers is the ag economy. Now not all farms are in financial distress. Farms that didn’t have a lot of debt load are doing OK and in general, diversified farms with livestock and crops are doing better than farms that don’t have livestock. But according to the Nebraska Farm Business Inc., farms with 70% or more of their net farm income from the sale of grain saw a 20% decline in income from 2016 to 2017.
Net farm income has been lower for the past five years (2013-2017) than it was for the eight years before that (2005-2012). Try to imagine what your budget would be like if you had five years in a row of income where your income was lower than most of the decade before or your income dropped 20% in one year.
It’s easy to think that the farm economy does not affect those of us whose income comes from sources other than the sale of agricultural commodities. Actually that is not the case at all. When the farm economy is up, farmers have more money to spend on main street businesses in our rural communities. Those are the same businesses you and I rely on. When the farm economy is good, it is good for all of us and when the farm economy is not so good, directly or indirectly it affects all of us that live in the country.
But there are so many benefits to living in the country, I wouldn’t trade that for anything and you wouldn’t either or you wouldn’t have made the choice to live there. I say the only thing that would make it better would be if I could just get rid of those “M” problems… moles, mosquitoes, and mowing my lawn!
Pleasures of Country Living
One of the biggest things that my wife and I enjoy is the variety of wildlife we see. There are many things you can do, to attract wildlife to your acreage. These don’t have to be expensive or long term to see results (although some can be). I’d suggest you pick out one or two species of wildlife you’d like to attract. Do a little research to find out what kind of habitat they like, then start out making modifications to meet their needs. You might be surprised at the results.
Over the next few months, I’m going to share some favorite images that Patty and I have taken of things we’ve observed from our house, deck, or area right around our home. I hope you enjoy these and that it might inspire you to try to make your place just a little “wilder!” So until next month, get outside and have some fun on your acreage!