By Candace Krebs Contributing Writer
When does rain on the plain become a pain?
Corn farmers across the High Plains are getting pretty close to finding out. It’s been a wet, cool corn-planting season nationwide, with many farmers in the Midwest now forced to replant due to recent flooding.
Surveying his young corn plants on a recent morning, Mike Lefever, who farms near Longmont, had his own worries.
“We’ve had some pretty cool temperatures, and it looks yellow. There was frost on the ground last night,” he said. “Hopefully the plants are small enough this will correct itself. But we’ll have to see how they look again in a few days.”
Depending on the outcome, he could be forced to replant some of his crop.
Lefever currently serves as president of the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee. He estimated that in the northeastern part of the state, which produces the bulk of the state’s harvest every year, about a third of the corn had yet to be planted and another 20 percent would have to be replanted due to heavy rain or snow and cold temperatures.
Replanting corn is not cheap. Lefever couldn’t imagine being in the shoes of his friend Martin Barbre, a former national corn grower president from Illinois who is faced with replanting 800 to 900 acres. At $100 an acre or more just for seed, the total outlay could easily approach $100,000, Lefever said.
There’s been speculation that some farmers who lose their corn crop will switch over to another summer crop, such as soybeans.
Lefever said late planting options in his area were limited to pinto beans, alfalfa or possibly oats for haylage.
“The sugar beets are already planted, and it’s too late to plant barley,” he said. “This time of year you’re pretty restricted.”
If enough farmers do switch out of corn and into something else, especially in the Corn Belt states, it could boost the corn market.
“It could bump prices a little bit,” Lefever said. “It’s $3.25 a bushel now but we might get the opportunity to lock in $4 or $4.25 at some point.”
With prices low and the farm economy struggling, President Trump made news this week when he introduced a budget that included steep cuts to farm programs, including price supports, conservation, marketing and rural development. While typically considered dead on arrival, a president’s budget can still be an indication of budget battles that lie ahead.
On Thursday, the Senate Ag Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Examining the Farm Economy: Perspectives on Rural America,” featuring testimony from bankers and economists.
Lefever was in Washington, D.C., back in February as a member of a leadership development program and plans to return in July for more legislative visits.
“The biggest thing I’m concerned about is crop insurance,” he said. “There are rumors right now that one of the things that might be on the table is premium support, which affects what we pay for insurance. It hasn’t happened yet, but they are looking at it.”
Another concern is future trade policy. Lefever said he was relieved to see Trump back away from previous promises to pull the plug on the North American Free Trade Agreement and begin at square one to renegotiate it. More recently Trump has said he will look for opportunities to make improvements to the existing NAFTA agreement instead.
“I was glad to see that once he got more information about it he wasn’t afraid to change his mind on that,” Lefever said.
With warmer temperatures in the forecast, he was hoping to get back to planting some of his farm ground near Haxtun by week’s end.
Most of the state’s corn farmers aren’t in panic mode yet, he said, but in another week that could change.
“A lot of farmers hold off planting corn until May 1st anyway,” he said. “If things warm up, we can get finished up in a hurry. I expect us to get caught back up in the next several days.”