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Opinion: Missouri farmers prepare for harvest

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Summer temperatures are finally starting to taper off and combines are rolling across Missouri’s fields. From corn and soybeans to rice and cotton, this harvest will mark the end of an extremely turbulent growing season for farmers.

Leading up to and during planting season, skyrocketing energy prices sent the cost of fuel and fertilizer off the charts. Ammonia for fertilizer more than doubled between September 2020 and December 2021, liquid nitrogen was up 159% and potash was up 134%. The national average price for diesel was $5.77 a gallon this July, up from $3.21 last July. For the farmers who were able to complete planting under those conditions, many were soon hit by a drought that still has not gone away.

The U.S. Drought Monitor for Sept. 15 rated 51.8% of Missouri in a drought condition, including major crop-producing regions along the Missouri River and Bootheel. This led to the U.S. Department of Agriculture reducing Missouri’s estimated corn crop to 149 bushels per acre, down 11 bushels from 2021 and 22 bushels below 2020. Of course, because of high-tech breeding and improvements in seed and crop management, 149 bushels per acre would still be the ninth-highest average on record for the state. USDA expects soybeans to average 47 bushels per acre, two bushels less than last year and four below 2020, but still the fifth-best all-time.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service tracks crop quality and harvest in each state. After this year’s dry summer, the NASS is only rating about 50% of Missouri’s corn crop as good to excellent, significantly below the 75% and 65% ratings at this time the past two years. Soybeans are in just about the same situation. There is still some time to go before harvest is complete and the numbers are finalized.

As combines, tractors and grain trucks roll this fall, farmers are reminded yet again of persistently high fuel prices. This challenge was undoubtedly made worse by the Biden administration’s assault on domestic energy production. We can solve this self-inflicted problem by reinstating an all-of-the-above national energy policy that promotes traditional, alternative and renewable energy sources rather than picking energy winners and losers. Agriculture needs a reliable and affordable energy supply, as do all American families.

While you’re out and about between now and November, I hope you will think about the many farm families working to ensure we have affordable and safe food. Please be sure to pay extra attention to the roads. All of this harvesting requires farmers to move large equipment from field to field, and the only way to do so is often via two-lane roads. I promise you, no one wants to get farm equipment off the road and back into a field faster than the farmer. Please be patient and take in the scenery of the world’s breadbasket next time you get stuck behind a tractor or combine.

Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, is president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. He can be reached at garrett.hawkins@mofb.com.

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