Rhythm of the Rain: In the Midwest, Rain Keeps Coming, Farmers Keep Coping.

June 20, 2019

Hung out with some local farmers last night.

Stories about guys still out planting corn, June 19th. Pretty late if you’re going for the proverbial “knee high by the 4th of July”.


A smartphone could fit in the space between James McCune’s index finger and thumb as the Illinois farmer describes the height of crops stunted by incessant rain and unseasonably cool weather.

“Corn’s not supposed to be this tall” in mid-June, McCune, who can trace his family’s farm roots as far back as 1857, said. “It’s supposed to be this tall,” as he gestures just below his waist.

Conditions and morale are so low in McCune’s area of northwestern Illinois, typically the second-biggest corn-producing state, that he organized a get-together Thursday evening at The Happy Spot, a restaurant and bar in Deer Grove, Whiteside County. About 125 farmers and others tied to the industry turned out for chicken and beer at the event, dubbed “prevent plant party,” in reference to acreage left unsown this season.

“It’s going to be a train wreck,” McCune said.

The headwinds growers are facing are multiple. Record rain has flooded Midwest streets and snarled Mississippi River traffic, crucial to delivering inputs that farmers need and a major artery in helping them ship products.

Stalled corn plantings forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cut its harvest estimates in its June report, only the fourth time since 2000 that the government has taken such action in that month’s data.

McCune, and other farmers at The Happy Spot, said the report still doesn’t fully capture how bad this year’s crop will be. He says the weather allowed him to plant just 950 acres (384 hectares) of corn on the 6,000 acres he operates.

Bryan Snetcher, a third-generation farmer from Shannon, Illinois, said that while he was finally able to get his crop planted, it has been a huge battle.

The crisis is not so much in the amount of corn that will be coming in nationally, prices might rise, which actually could be a boon to some.
But individually, Farmers are hurting, and the double whammy of tariffs plus weather is already driving near record numbers into bankruptcy.

Bob Henson in Weather Underground:

The 12 months ending in April 2019 were the wettest year-long period in U.S. records going back to 1895, according to the monthly U.S. climate summary issued Wednesday by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Averaged across the contiguous U.S., the total of 36.20” made the period from May 2018 to April 2019 the first year-long span ever to top 36”. The old record for any 12-month period was 35.78”, from April 2015 to March 2016.

Given the fierce drought-related impacts of the 2010s—including multiple deadly wildfire disasters from Tennessee to California—it may seem a bit counterintuitive that the nation has actually been getting wetter overall. Across the contiguous U.S., average yearly precipitation has risen by about 2” over the past century, from around 29” to just over 31” (see Figure 1). For the entire nation, including Alaska and Hawaii, precipitation increased by about 4% in the period from 1901 to 2015, according to the U.S. National Assessment.

Of course, the averages above obscure a lot of regional and temporal variability, and the devil of drought impact lies in those details. U.S. climate is famously variable from year to year, decade to decade, and region to region (see Figure 2). As human-produced greenhouse gases boost temperatures over the long haul, both globally and nationally, the most intense precipitation episodes are getting even heavier, while the intense droughts that do occur in places like California are increasingly “hot” droughts, where the heat pulls moisture from vegetation and the landscape more effectively. We may see similar tendencies toward hot droughts in other parts of the U.S. as the climate continues to warm. The upshot is  that drought impacts can intensify in a warming world even in places where the long-term precipitation average, across both wet and dry periods, is unchanged or even rising slightly.

A 2018 study found that California’s wet season is likely to get compressed into a shorter window, likely leading to precipitation “whiplash” between wet winters and hot, dry summers.

4 Responses to “Rhythm of the Rain: In the Midwest, Rain Keeps Coming, Farmers Keep Coping.”

  1. […] via In the Midwest, the Rain Keeps Coming. Farmers Coping. | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  2. Earl Mardle Says:

    And here were these dopey “climate scientists” predicting that as the “climate” gets warmer the air would hold more rain resulting in……….. oh, wait a bit

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Given the fierce drought-related impacts of the 2010s, …it may seem a bit counterintuitive that the nation has actually been getting wetter overall.

    In central Texas wetter springs produce more growth. If they’re followed by a typical hot, dry summer, that all turns to fuel.

  4. Abel Adamski Says:

    They can relocate to the Arctic to farm what was permafrost

    Scientists shocked by Arctic permafrost thawing 70 years sooner than predicted

    Ice blocks frozen solid for thousands of years destabilized
    ‘The climate is now warmer than at any time in last 5,000 years’

    The paper was based on data Romanovsky and his colleagues had been analysing since their last expedition to the area in 2016. The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned cold war-era radar base more than 300km from the nearest human settlement.

    Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognisable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier.

    The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

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