Drought and decisions facing farmers in 2013

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It's no secret that summer 2012 brought a one-two punch of drought and heat.

It made the seed corn harvest about two weeks early. At Munson Hybrids in Galesburg, timely showers and high prices helped this region to escape with decent crops.

"Considering the drought and what people did around the area, I felt like my yields were decent," said Craig Long, who farms in nearby Warren County.

That's why farmers gathered in Galesburg on Wednesday. They came for the 2012 Farm Economics Summit. Hosted by the University of Illinois, farmers like Wendell Shauman learn more about crop insurance and issues facing agriculture.

Shauman, who farms in Kirkwood, Illinois, had his best year in the business. But he feels for his downstate colleagues whose fields were devastated by drought.

"The guys that are really going to be hurt are the 20% of farmers in Illinois that chose not to carry federal crop insurance," he said. "That's going to be tough on them."

Extreme weather forced some farmers to give up on their corn. That left some plants at just a fraction of its potential. In one Henry County field, it was the worst crop in 25 years.

"Crop insurance is definitely an important part of being a farmer right now," Long said.

After a better-than-expected 2012, farmers like Shauman, who also chairs the U.S. Grains Council, will be ready to roll up their sleeves and get ready for spring planting. For them, it's always a fresh start.

That optimism is tempered by continued dry weather. There's still time for a turnaround.

"Spring rains could remedy that," Shauman said. "Lack of rain will really cause us problems."

"If we can grab some of those higher prices and get some decent yields, we should have a chance for a great year next year," Long concluded.

That's after a year some Illinois farmers would like to forget.

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