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Farmers, complaining and the perfect year

Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2012, at 8:45 AM

Uplifting articles such as "Drought strategies for livestock farmers," and "Flash Drought' Threatens To Destroy Mo. Crops" are flooding my mailbox right now.

What a difference a year can make.

For the past four years, we have been drowning in water. Getting our work done has been difficult. Farmers have been cranky and frustrated.

Now, in spring 2012, we have had no trouble getting our work finished. For the first time in several years we finished planting, baling hay and spraying in a timely manner. In fact, the farmers in my life are even cleaning up our sheds. That's equivalent to me finally being caught up enough on housework to actually find time to organize drawers and closets.

After so many years of being far behind, it seems like this year on the farm (not the closets), we are closer to being caught up on our work than any summer in recent memory.

You would think everyone would be happy, right?

Not so.

"Last year we were cranky because we couldn't get it to stop raining," remarked son No. 1, the other day. (Note: They have eartags No. 1 and No. 2 so I can tell them apart.)

"Now this year, we're cranky because it won't rain," he continued.

Hmmm. I'm starting to sense a pattern here.

I've heard it said many times, but now I know it is true. Farmers are never satisfied.

After pondering the subject for years, I've finally found a reason why they complain. Farmers can't control the weather, they can't control the markets and they can't control their input prices.

But complaints -- that they can control.

It doesn't make it rain, or not rain, depending on the year. It just makes them feel a little better.

There was one year, however, when seldom a complaint was heard on area farms.

It was 2004 -- the yardstick year to measure all others.

Just the mention of the year brings a smile to my lips.

Rains fell predictably every seven days or so. It fell slow and steady, just as if it was from a sprinkler. No hail, no winds.Just rain, sweet rain. A farmer couldn't have ordered any better weather for growing crops.

The temperatures stayed cool most of the summer. In fact, when we camped at the state fair in August, it was cold. We had to wear sweatshirts in the evenings. Air conditioners were turned off.

This time, I complained. After all, if I wanted to live in Iowa, I would have moved there.

But the truth is, cool summer evenings are the reason Iowa is considered the corn capital of the U.S. (My husband reminded me of that, while I was complaining.)

And for one year, we had Iowa weather. And as it turned out -- Iowa corn yields.

The biggest challenge was hauling off bushel after bushel of perfect corn, and long lines at the elevator. Son No. 2 carried a football in the truck. He enticed other drivers, elevator employees and me to play catch with him while we waited in long lines to dump our corn.

Yet no one complained.

After all of it was harvested, the corn yielded an average of 162 bushels per acre throughout the state in 2004, setting a Missouri record. Soybeans, too, set an average yield record that year in Missouri -- 45 bushels per acre.

It was, indeed, a perfect year.

Come to think of it, I misstated above. Farmers don't complain ALL the time.

After all, one out of 28 isn't bad.

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