This year's growing season in the Midwest and in parts of the Great Plains has been the worst many farmers have seen in decades.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released on a weekly basis during the summer is now down to monthly updates. October's update shows nearly 2/3 of the lower 48 states still in some form of drought. In South Dakota it's no different.
Many fields in southeast South Dakota are already harvested. If you'd told farmer Paul Shubeck he would finish up harvesting by the beginning of October - he probably wouldn't believe you.
"It's an interesting year," Shubeck said.
Not just for Shubeck, but for many farmers. Especially in the southeast part of the state.
Many South Dakota farmers have cut down their corn and soybean crops way ahead of schedule.
In fact, in recent years, Shubeck says he's harvested as late as Christmas.
"I don't recall a drought that has been this severe and with this kind of yield response," Shubeck said.
Because of the lack of rain, barely anything grew.
Corn should have been bright green and standing over 8 feet tall during the peak summer season. This year it's the opposite. When you walked into many fields, it's so dry you could hear the crunch. Stalks instead were often brown and wilted, barely making the five foot tall mark.
To better explain how much loss some of these farmers are dealing with this year, here are some numbers.
Shubeck farms more than 1,000 acres. In a normal year he gets about 150 bushels an acre. That's 150,000 bushels.
This year, Shubeck is expecting between only 8 to 15 bushels an acre of corn and soybeans. That's only about 10,000 bushels - a loss of more than 140,000 bushels.
That means less income for this farmer.
"Essentially what has happened here is that our house burnt down and so that's the way to look at it so crop insurance will help with the cost but it won't be like replacing a crop," Shubeck said.
He says most farmers have the insurance but it doesn't cover everything.
There are many farmers in the same boat this season.
"It's historic for South Dakota and for the nation," Lisa Richardson said.
South Dakota Corn Executive Director Lisa Richardson says the good news is there are other parts of the country including the northern part of South Dakota that had a good crop this year.
"We have some concerns. The positive is we have a corn quality, our quality turned out better than expected. We think yields are a little better than predicted," Richardson said.
Richardson says even though parts of the country didn't produce as much corn as they wanted to -- the nationwide average isn't bad.
"Don't underestimate the ability of the American farmer. They will produce. They still produced but not as much as we'd like but long term they will adapt technology and do what it takes to grow what the world needs," Richardson said.
For farmers to have a good harvest next season, they'll need mother nature's help.
"We need some rain this fall. We need some snow this winter and we need rain next spring. Our cup is empty and we need to fill it back up," Richardson said.
That's what farmers hope too.
"I laugh and say South Dakota is a next year state. Next year is going to be better. So that's every farmers attitude, I think," Shubeck said.
A national climatologist predicts we're in store for another drought next year because of El Nino patterns. Meanwhile, the state's climatologist doesn't agree.
We won't know exactly how many bushels were lost until all the nationwide counts are in. That will be sometime in December
Thursday, February 20 2014 7:42 PM EST2014-02-21 00:42:09 GMT
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