Linwood Rainy, cloudy weather has put the brakes on farming in Douglas County and across northeast Kansas.
Mark Milleret's lawn is thick, lush and carefully trimmed. But Millerett isn't bragging about it.
Milleret is a full-time farmer, and he normally wouldn't have much time to do yard work in mid-June. There are beans and corn to plant, wheat to cut.
"Mother's Day to July 4 is usually my busiest time of year," Milleret said during an interview last week at his home west of Linwood.
But weeks of cloudy, rainy weather this spring have put the brakes on farming across northeast Kansas.
Garry Keeler, Douglas County Extension Service agriculture agent, said the weather had delayed planting and virtually assured that the wheat harvest wouldn't start on time.
"Every day later you get, your yield's getting lower," Keeler said. "This not being able to get your crop in, that's a disaster."
What do farmers stand to lose? To get an idea, here's what a one-acre yield of corn, wheat, grain sorghum and soybeans from 1993 -- the last year that heavy rains choked productivity -- would earn on today's market, versus cost of production:
- The '93 average yield for corn was 68 bushels per acre, and Keeler said this year's crop was "shaping up to be at least as bad as '93."
At Friday's price of $2.65 per bushel, 68 bushels would bring $180.20. Average production cost, which includes seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, fuel and other expenditures, is $188.17.
Net loss: $7.97 per acre. For an idea of how acreage is used for corn production in Douglas County, consider that farmers planted 20,300 acres of the crop in 1994, a record year for the Kansas corn harvest.
- Wheat yield in '93 was 21 bushels, which would bring $101.14 at Friday's price. Average production cost is $115.63.
Net loss: $14.49 per acre. Acres of wheat planted in 1994: 18,000.
- Grain sorghum yield in '93 was 56 bushels, which would bring $137.76 at Friday's price. Average production cost is $147.17.
Net loss: $9.41. Acres of grain sorghum planted in 1994: 35,000.
- The 1993 soybean yield was 26 bushels, worth $147.42 at Friday's price. Average production cost is $142.83, meaning that a farmer would earn $4.59 per acre. But the earnings are $51.03 less than those on an average yield of 35 bushels, which would be worth $198.45.
Although a stretch of sunny, breezy weather would improve the outlook, the farm picture looked grim last week.
By this time in 1994, farmers had planted 100 percent of their corn -- 20,300 acres in Douglas County. This year, just 70 percent is in the ground here.
Stalks that should be about 3-feet tall are one-third their normal height in some areas, stunted by cool temperatures and lack of sunlight.
Rust and other diseases are affecting wheat, and soybean and milo planting is "probably less than 10 percent" complete, Keeler said.
Crops across the board are being affected. An employee of Taylor's Vegetable Wagon, which was operating a produce tent last week in the 1000 block of Iowa, said strawberries, cantaloupes and other crops were rotting in sodden fields.
Tomatoes, which need warm temperatures and sunlight to grow and ripen, are being stunted, she said.
Keeler said the situation was taking an emotional toll on farmers, similar to what they went through during the 1980s farm crisis and the Flood of '93.
Anna Kopp, an employee of the Midland Farm Store, sees firsthand the weather's effects on farmers when they come to the store, about two miles north of Lawrence on U.S. Highway 24-59.
"There's an awful lot of upset farmers out there," she said.