Many area pastures are turning green after recent rainfall across Northeast Missouri brought about relief from the summer's drought for farmers.

Many area pastures are turning green after recent rainfall across Northeast Missouri brought about relief from the summer's drought for farmers.

Northeast Missouri farmers contended with patchy and sparse rainfall throughout the summer. Farmers were facing decisions before rains fell over the area during the past couple weeks, like cutting cover crops and corn for livestock feed, selling cattle and deciding whether to purchase hay reaching prices of $100 bales for sale along U.S. 36.

Marion County Farm Bureau President Joe Kendrick said those bales would probably be sold, but he said a rate above $85 meant that farmers would start thinking about selling their cattle. Soybeans are benefitting from the precipitation as the ground soaks up precipitation due to diminished subsoil moisture levels.

Area benefits

Kendrick said he received five to six inches of rain over the past two weeks, and he can see the difference every time he looks at greener pastures once filled with brown grass.

“We're probably in the best shape we've been in all summer,” he said. “Pastures have revived themselves and come back, and actually, some cows are not able to keep it grazed down. The grass is ahead of them at this point.”

Fellow farmer Brent Hoerr also noticed the benefits of recent rainfall. “The last several weeks, we've been getting rain,” he said. “We got about an inch and a half a couple weeks, then we got two inches of rain, then we got three inches of rain. We had three pretty good rain events that have really improved crop conditions on the beans, and it's helping the corn, too.”

Kendrick and Hoerr said the ground has been soaking up water with very little runoff, reflecting how dry the soil is below the surface. Kendrick said a friend recently dug down to find completely dry soil about eight feet down.

Although Northeast Missouri is witnessing improving conditions, neighboring farmers in the Show-Me State are still dealing with drought in communities like Albany and Hamilton. “Right here, I'm just so thankful that we got the rain to break the dry spell we had over the summer, and it's going to help out right here,” he said. “But there are a lot of places in the state it's a little too late for that.”

Kendrick attended a meeting Wednesday in St. Joseph to talk with fellow farmers and ranchers. One farmer reported he received 3/10-inch of rain — the first rainfall he witnessed since October 2017. As he drove by corn crops in Cameron or Hamilton, he couldn't see any signs of ears on the stalks — many of the crops had already been chopped for silage. “We were in a bad position here locally, but there were other parts of the state that were far worse,” he said.

One of the farmers at the meeting said this year's drought was “worse by far” than what farmers faced in 2012. Kendrick expected a “fair” to “pretty decent” soybean crop and a very strong corn crop nationally, but crop yields were considerably lower in Missouri than they were in previous seasons.

Looking ahead

The Trump Administration's crop assistance program is based on 2018 yields. Kendrick said that would make it more difficult to receive aid in Missouri. “Missouri is going to be pretty hard-hit as a whole compared to the rest of the country in terms of being helped with this assistance,” he said.

Hoerr said prices could continue to drop without strong trade agreements with Mexico and Canada — the top two importers of agricultural exports — due to projected record yields across the country.

“It's good to have some good news that's going to maybe help on the marketing side... and not just keep depressing the prices,” he said. “That's some really good news on the trade process that's going to help out.”

Kendrick remained optimistic, too, stressing that the drought offered a learning experience for everyone it affected.

“We're not out of the woods by any means, and we'll definitely need a lot more precipitation between now and next spring's planting,” he said. “We just have to make due with what the good Lord deals us and we'll get through it, and there will be some fallout from it. In the end, we'll all learn something from it, and next time maybe we'll be able to be a little better prepared for it.”

Trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com