Views on commodities and energy
Pro Farmer promises nothing to scouts on its annual Midwest Crop Tour but hard work, long days and the chance to get really dirty. For most, it does not sound like the best way to spend a week in mid-August.
But the tour attracts a group of regulars who come back every year to gauge the potential of corn and soybeans around the region as well as reconnect with people they met on previous tours.
“I am still interested in what the crops are doing and we learn a lot,” said Rodney Frick, an Illinois farmer on his fourth crop tour. “But it is also about the friendships we form.”
Frick joined his first tour in 2005 after getting back into farming full time following 12 years working construction. He has come back every year since, although this year he will have to cut out a little bit early to attend his daughter’s wedding.
It was a case of keys being accidentally locked in the car, a cut to the finger by a corn leaf and a chat about hail damage at a scouting stop on the Pro Farmer crop tour on Tuesday in Carlton, Nebraska.
And thus, the monotony of scouting a seemingly-endless number of corn and soybean fields in the Midwest grain belt was broken, momentarily, by these incidents.
At the stop in Carlton, a U.S. Agriculture Department official, in the car behind ours, accidentlly locked his keys in his rented Hyundai.
Then, this reporter deeply sliced his finger on the leaf of a corn stalk.
While the government man borrowed a phone from another scout to call the rental company and I dressed my wound with a wet napkin and a bandage, the farmer whose bean field we were scouting pulled up in his pickup.
Then, Rich Mosier, a broker with brokerage and research company Allendale, Inc., passing through from his home in Davenport, Iowa, stopped for a chat.
All of the sudden, it was a veritable meeting of the minds on the side of Highway 4.
With a locksmith on his way, talk returned to farming.
Scout Elwood Line, our driver and a farmer from northeast Illinois, asked if Carlton farmer John Lange was a ‘John Deere’ man, referring to the farm machinery maker Deere & Co.
“Both — John Deere and International,” Lange said. “International combine and a John Deere head.”
Mosier said the crops in this area, especially the dryland fields, were first hammered by hail and are now thirsty for rain.
“The dryland has suffered the last three weeks. We haven’t had any big rains,” Mosier said.
After about 45 minutes, the locksmith showed up to jimmy the door of the Sonata.
Asked how he was doing, the locksmith replied, “Better than you, I guess.”
Corn yield in the field we scouted was projected at 193 bushels per acre, while the soybean count was 1,034 pods in a 3-by-3 foot area.
“There are about as many yield formulas as there are ways of doing anything,” said Roger Bernard, the leader of the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest crop tour.
If you’re planning on coming on next year’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, better start stocking up on supplies now. It takes a lot of equipment to measure a few ears of corn and count soybean pods. Scouts on the annual tour must be ready for nearly anything when they head into fields to gather data for estimates of this year’s corn and soybean harvest.
Let’s start at the bottom – boots. Solid footwear is essential for tromping through rows of corn, many of which are expected to be muddy due to surplus rainfall around the Corn Belt. More storms are in the forecast for this week, good for crops but bad for crop scouts. A raincoat and pair of waterproof pants can make the difference between merely a bad day and a miserable one if it storms during the tour.