Reversed soybean/corn harvest a 'first' for long-time producer

Thursday, September 27, 2012
(Sentinel photo by Jolene Stevens) La Mont Schmid was preparing this past weekend to get into the first of his soybean fields. He realizes the days will be busy ones as he and other county producers move fast to complete harvest of this year's soybean crop.

Chances are that while La Mont Schmid admits his "older" combine doesn't have all the GPS equipment available on many of the today's combines, it does have something he considers a definite plus.

It's his cab lunch bucket, an "extra" that indicates his desire to get the soybean harvest in.

That sentiment is humming around Plymouth County as combines rumble through the fields.

"This is the first time in all my years of farming that I've ever got the corn done before I start beans," he said this past weekend as he prepared to begin harvesting the bean field across the road from his farm home near Kingsley.

"It's always been a situation of getting the beans done first and then going to corn," said Schmid, who has been farming since 1973. "This year, what with the drought, the corn was dry and falling over so we just started combining it and finished it Saturday."

He added that he and his brother, Denny, who farms with him, have an approximate 1,800 acres of soybeans to bring in plus some limited custom harvest acreage.

Harvest should take 10 to 15 "lunch bucket days" in the field often working into the night hours.

Hitting the fields with a full lunch bucket means not having to take breaks, he explained.

"It's going to be a pretty much getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at midnight situation," Schmid added. "We run when we can and never stop."

His sons, Jeff, who works for Cargill, and Todd and Lee, employed by Titan Machinery, helped him over the weekend to "change over" the combine for the beans as the harvest was about to start.

Schmid said he appreciated the additional help at the busy time.

On Tuesday, Schmid said he felt his estimated 48 bushel-per-acre yield from the first of the fields with an expected overall per-acre yield of 45 bushels was "pretty good" in light of the drought-impacted crop.

He put his average yield "in a normal year" at an estimated 57-68 bushels per acre.

The earlier harvested corn yielded 85-105 bushels per acre comparable to a 2011 average of around 195 bushels per acre.

"We're really happy with that," he said, suggesting that June rain helped the crop.

"We didn't get enough rain, however. I don't know how we got the crop we got," Schmid said. "It's just unreal, a miracle, we got what we did."

Schmid credits today's hybrids as having a major role in the better-than-expected corn yields.

"If we'd planted the same corn we planted in '55 or '56, we wouldn't have had to combine this year," he said. "The hybrids we have now are so much better in taking the adverse growing conditions."

Today's producers have to be aware of modern research and agricultural updates, Schmid said.

"You've got to know what you're doing," he said. "You've got to watch the test plots and see the new varieties that work in your area, what they will and won't do. The new varieties' drought-tolerant corn is quite a bit better than corn used to be."

Schmid plans to market this year's soybeans at the local Kingsley Farmers Co-op rather store in on-farm bins. As of Wednesday, beans were at $15.37 a bushel.

As a result of selling his beans this way, Schmid will have the required weight slips necessary for Crop Insurance documentation, he added.

He sees the insurance a valuable benefit for drought-impacted producers.

"There's been I think a lot of producers going to be qualifying for 100 percent assistance as a result of the drought especially in areas where it's been real dry," Schmid suggested.

"While you won't have anything extra with the Crop Insurance, it will help everybody to survive, to pay for the expense of putting in and taking out the crops you've had in your fields."

Having had good crop years prior to this year has also helped producers who've managed well, he said.

Regarding the present lag on passage of a new Farm Bill, Schmid addresses the situation this way.

"Everybody looks at the picture and says the farmer made money the last couple of years so why do they need help?" he said. "Well, if you really talk to most of the farmers, most of them have sold their corn long before this $7 corn ever come up."

Many sold at $6 a bushel, Schmid said, adding that he is aware of some who contracted corn at $5.70, so farmers depend on all that is involved with the Farm Bill.

"Take the farmland rent price," Schmid said. "It's just gone crazy, and I don't know where it's going to stop. Some day somebody is going to pay the piper."

If producers have two normal crop years with good yields, and there will be some major adjustment that will have to be made, Schmid said.

Producers can't continue to pay what they're paying because our markets are going to go down," he said. "There's no way around it. The only reason it this didn't happen this year is that the whole United States just didn't get enough rain."