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Bad Year for Farmers

September 26, 1995
By: Laura Cavender
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY _ "I'll be glad to get rid of this year." That's the reaction of Mike McKeown, a farmer in Moberly, Mo., to the unusual weather of this summer and the effects on his soybeans.

McKeown is not alone. Missouri agricultural experts say the dry spell through much of the summer followed by unseasonably low temperatures in northern and central Missouri have hurt soybeans, sorghum, corn, and cotton this year.

"We can't make a definitive statement on damage done," said Bob Bellinghausen of the Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service. Until harvest, neither farmers nor consumers will know the harm inflicted on Missouri crops this season. "It's going to be a while _ there was some damage from the frost."

According to McKeown, the frost decreases the size of the soybeans, which were maturing, but have now stopped growth because of the frost. The decreased size of the soybeans will result in a smaller yield for farmers, meaning profits will also decrease.

Brian Munzlinger, President of Missouri Corn Growers Association and a farmer in northeastern Missouri said the cold weather of late summer affected his 265 acres of corn. "I'm not sure to what degree it will hurt the yield, but it will hurt the quality [of the corn]." He said the frost killed all of the leaves on the plants. "We will get discounted for poorer quality on price," he said.

Munzlinger's soybeans also "got hit hard, the leaves turned black and dropped off." He made an estimate of 5 to 10 percent losses in his soybean crop, but added "it's too early to tell the full extent of damage."

McKeown added that "the frost really hurt" his sorghum crops, as well. He expects the test weight of sorghum to be down, and said "if the test weight's off, you lose money."

But Brian Willott, crop sector analyst for the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, said "in general, the consumer won't see the effects of this frost. It takes a large run-up in crop prices for consumers to actually see it." But another frost could cause higher prices.

"Another hard frost soon would probably be tough," said Kyle Vickers, Deputy Director for Missouri's Agriculture Department who also owns a farm near Nevada, Mo. "Weather in the next few days and weeks will make a difference."

Southeastern Missouri's cotton farmers were not exempted from the poor weather this season, either.

A hot, dry spell in August caused the expected cotton yield to drop, which will lead to higher prices for cotton throughout the U.S.

"This will reflect how much you pay for blue jeans," said Duane Dailey, Information Specialist at the University of Missouri Extension Office in Columbia.

Gary Adams, from the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, said Missouri farmers expected to increase their cotton production this season due to an additional 90,000 acres available in Missouri for cotton farming. But since the dry spell, expected cotton yield has dropped from 856 to 700 pounds per acre.

"This comes from some dry weather we had in summer months - August is a critical period for cotton and we had a dry spell," Adams said.

The frost mainly hit north of I-70. It affected soybeans the most, and corn the least.

"There is definite damage to crops in Missouri," Vickers said, "but it's still a fairly large crop by historical standards."

Said Munzlinger, "this is one year I'd like to see go, quickly. But we're pretty much optimists _ we look forward to next year."