WAXAHACHIE — The recent rains over the past two weeks have acted as a double-edged sword for residents in Ellis County. Yes, the precipitation has provided a much-needed relief from the heat, but the drenching has also negatively impacted the lives of agriculture producers who depend on the earth for their livelihood.
“It obviously has been a topic of discussion for the seven to 10 days while all of the rain has hit," said John Paul Dineen III, president of the Ellis County Farm Bureau. "I was at a meeting with some guys seeing how things were going and everybody had already started the corn harvest. A couple of guys had cut a little bit of milo. Most of the sunflowers had gotten completed [harvested] and were finished, but it is kind of kicking while you are down kind of deal. Yields are not good.
"Everybody knew that going in that it was not going to be good. Comity prices are bad. They have been bad for a year and a half right now, and everybody knew that going in. Well, now the next hit of bad news. A lot of the guys are starting to see the nine-plus inches of rain that we have had. The grain is sprouting in the head. In other words, we have milo that is ready to harvest and is ripe. Because it has had high humidity and moisture all that for seven-nine days, it thinks that it need to grow again. Obviously, that is not good when you are trying to sell grain.”
Dineen said the green sprout inside crops ready to harvest presents several problems and will negatively affect the sale price of the produce.
“One thing is that it is going to be harder to harvest. You have got a little green sprout on there. So that is going to mess up your moisture and that is going to mess up your quality on the grain,” Dineen said. “When you take your truckload in there they are going to check it for moisture; they check for quality, weight and that kind of stuff. A grain elevator does not want to have all little green sprouts when they are trying to sell that product.
"I have been told that some of that cottonseed is starting to sprout still out in the field there. That is not a good thing. Nobody has gotten back into the field yet to cut a load and see what the percentages is going be of sprout and all of that, but it has certainly raised some caution flags on a lot of the producers and elevators. They are going to be looking really hard at that.”
Prices that producers are receiving for their crops are, at times, not even allowing them to break even. For example, corn is about $3 a bushel, and a bushel is about 56 pounds. Two years ago producers were getting about $5.50 per bushel, which was already down from three or four years ago when the price per bushel for corn ranged from $6-$6.50.
“When you put a calculator to it, and you factor it out we are actually harvesting a crop and raising a crop and getting paid less than the cost of the production. In other words, we are losing money,” Dineen explained. “At these prices, we have to harvest because you have to get something back, but we are doing more work to lose money. It is the way it is. With this potential sprout damage, any chance of breaking even or making a little profit starts to get bleak.”
Overall, Dineen thinks that this year weather conditions, not just the past two weeks, have hampered agriculture producers’ efforts.
“The corn and the milo that we are trying to harvest now would have been planted around the first of March. Unfortunately, we have these monsoon rain events come through, and the corn seed rotted. So the corn seed got planted all over again around the first week of April,” Dineen noted. “So we were late on the crop by about two to three weeks. We would have been in the corn harvest by Aug. 1. So now it is (almost) Sept. 1 and we are now just harvesting.”
But it is not just the current crops that will be affected, the Ellis County farmer pointed out, because as the rain continues to fall the late planting and the late harvesting will also change when the winter crops are planted. It takes about 30 days to prepare the ground for the winter crops.
"It's frustrating, and it boils down to the financial. I got a message from my seed company today that my account is due on Sept. 15 to be paid. They understand that I haven’t started harvest yet, but there is no way that I am going to get all my crops sold in 15 days. So what that does is that will accrue interest penalties because of late payment on my account,” Dineen said. “It is not just me; it is any producer that those accounts come due. You set them up to where you will be pretty sure you would be done with the harvest by then. But then you have a season like this where you are late planting and with the rainfall, you are late harvesting. Then you are pushing the due date on your bills.”
To offset some of these financial burdens producers, like Dineen, are looking at different ways to reduce their overhead. One of the ways Dineen is looking at are his fuel and labor costs and seeing if there are ways that he can do more with less.
Utilizing a direct-to-the-consumer method through his business, Yellow Farmhouse, is another one of his alternatives.
With the wheat, corn and grain sorghum that they grow, Dineen and his family mill and package these products and offer them straight to the consumer at the Dallas Farmers Market, Stahlmans at Bear Creek-Farm Store in New Braunfels, The Boyce Feed Store in Waxahachie and the Downtown Waxahachie Farmer’s Market. They also sell their locally raised beef at Field to Meal located inside the Fresh Market Coffee House located at 410 S. Rogers St.
“The consumers in the last few years have gotten very active in connecting with the farmers. They would like to know where it comes from and how it is raised. So there is an opportunity there for producers to fill that gap and have a relationship with the consumer because they are looking for it,” Dineen said. “They want to know where it comes from and who it comes from. They would love the opportunity to come and talk to a farmer and ask them questions.”
But according to Dineen, not every producer is blessed with the option to generate income through other means. However, there are some resources available that can help during the trying times.
“The Farm Service Agency is a good resource for producers that need some refinancing and low-interest loans,” Dineen said. “They have grain storage loans where maybe people do not want to sell their crop at a lesser price. They want to store it. They have loans to where you can keep your crop and you can sell it at a later date.”
For more information about resources for agricultural producers go to the Farm Services Agency website at www.fsa.usda.gov.
Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series. For part one, see the Daily Light from Sunday, Aug. 28.
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