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July 2010

And the Weather Forecast is...

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

Mark Twain once said, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” No one knows this to be true more so than farmers, whose livelihood depends on the right combination of rainclouds and sunshine.

Weather presents a risk to agriculture at a level not experienced by most other sectors. The productivity of our fields – the bulk of our production capability – is tied directly to the weather. I’ve never known an automobile company to not roll-out its latest SUV because of drought or an entire line of computer software wiped out because of a freeze. But there are many producers who have lost an entire year’s worth of crops and even livestock to extreme temperatures, excessive or inadequate moisture or high winds.

Red Skies at Night, Sailor’s Delight...

When I was a youngster on the farm we had a lot of old sayings we’d use to try to gauge the weather... “A wind from the south has rain in its mouth,” or “If the rooster crows on going to bed, you may rise with a watery head.” But, in all seriousness, nothing can be more nerve-racking for a farmer than waiting on that rain to come. As I’ve often said, I’ll never forget the joy of seeing the heavens open and rain pour out of the Texas sky after one of the longest droughts known to our state during the 1950s.

But, as they say, sometimes when it rains it pours. Take Tennessee for example. The state has been hit recently with historic rainfall and devastating flooding, resulting in significant damage to its corn and wheat, among other crops. At one point, Tennessee’s agriculture commissioner estimated there were tens of thousands of acres under water.

Tennessee is not the only area with excessive rainfall. Many producers in Indiana, Oklahoma and other states have had to replant crops ruined by flooding. Unfortunately, many folks don’t realize the cost and labor of planting again – and that’s if areas can even be reseeded.

Take the freeze that hit Florida at the beginning of the year, which ruined the tomato crop and caused national shortages. Only now are new plantings starting to emerge and consumers can once again get tomatoes on their Wendy’s burgers without having to ask or without paying extra at supermarkets for the popular fruit.

A Cow With its Tail to the West Makes the Weather Best...

It’s not only crops and livestock that can get damaged by the weather. Just last month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $12 million in Emergency Conservation Program funds were being made available to farmers and ranchers in 14 states to repair farmland damaged by natural disasters this year.

Typically in many instances, while producers are coping with the loss and damage of crops and livestock, they are also dealing with infrastructure issues like removing debris, restoring fences, and repairing buildings. In one fell swoop, a tornado, hurricane or even wildfire can devastate an entire farm.

But with a little faith and a lot of resolve, farmers always tend to pull through. As they say, “A sunny shower won’t last an hour.”