After talking with producers who are attending the 2018 DTN Ag Summit in Chicago, I can assert that, when they think about how this past year's crop weather treated them -- even with year No. 6 of big production -- that getting there was not half the fun. Whether the operation was in the Midwest, the Delta, the Plains, the Canadian Prairies -- it didn't matter. 2018 was a tough, stormy year for farming.
Bookend rainy spells, causing issues with planting and harvest, lead the list of out-of-the-ordinary trends. Heavy spring rains have been featured for enough seasons recently that it seems producers are getting accustomed to that trend. But, this past fall season's heavy rain and snow definitely rattled the thinking. I heard details of late harvest; many acres of un-harvested crops; and, field preparation for next spring that didn't get done. All in all, this is definitely the most-difficult harvest since nine years ago, back in 2009.
In talking about yields, the phrase "good, not great" seems to catch the flavor. There is appreciation of the mild temperature trend during last summer; I didn't hear a single complaint about excessive summer heat. But I did hear about the very cold month of April and its contribution to field work getting off to a slow start this season.
The market's bottom line, of course, is whether these conditions made for an appreciable reduction in crop size. And, from that standpoint, strictly speaking, that answer is "no." The 2018 crop year continued a run of production seasons with yields at or above trend line. And, with the Pacific Ocean equator waters warming to El Nino threshold levels, an El Nino ocean event looks like a solid bet into spring of 2019. Producers at the Ag Summit asked about that, too -- and are thinking of the prospect for year No. 7 of big crops.
But, to achieve big numbers at harvest, fields need to be in decent condition. And, on that point, our Ag Summit producers are concerned about rutted-out ground following the wet, difficult harvest. The upcoming 2019 season looks like a season when more tillage will have to be done just to level out the ruts. That adds another item to the list when next spring rolls around.
At the end of the day, or in this case the season, producers are still very appreciative of, well, being able to produce. Even with the problems, delays, and disruptions, our Ag Summit growers are looking forward to 2019 and ready to take it on, weather challenges and all.
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