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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Farmers' spirts are dampened by weather

Sunday, June 2, 2002

SIKESTON --

Recent weather hasn't only dampened the soil for area farmers--it's also dampened their spirits.

Farmers are use to working with and around the weather, and in years past, they've made a pretty good team. But this year, Mother Nature isn't cooperating with them, and to put it nicely, most Southeast Missouri farmers are pretty angry with her.

"It's not worth it to put in the amount of money that it takes to farm to have something like this happen," Farmer Larry Gene Strobel II, of Bell City, said. "It's too big of a gamble. But it's what I've been doing all my life."

The majority of farmers who plant corn usually have it planted by mid to late April, but due to the large amounts of rain over the last few weeks, farmers haven't been able to get anything planted.

Strobel said he's planted about one-fourth the amount of corn he intended to plant. And farmer Robin Burger, of New Hamburg, said Burger Farms has quit corn and is just focusing on soybeans. Burger has been farming for 28 years and even this weather has shocked him. "I have never seen anything like this. Never," he marveled.

And if not being able to plant corn wasn't a big enough problem, farmers are also having to deal with the wheat scab that formed from moist conditions, and it has taken over approximately 75 to 80 percent of their crop.

Monsanto seed dealer and Scott County farmer Morris Hahn said it's not only wheat scab, but a disease called take-all disease that's killing wheat, too. "Take-all disease forms from wet conditions," he said. "And it's exactly the way it sounds--it leaves nothing there. It takes the whole crop."

A lot of farmers all over the Southeast Missouri region are asking Hahn what can be done. Since it's so late in the season, he recommends farmers to discuss and write down five alternatives. Cut them into strips of paper, throw them into a hat and pick one out, he said. If someone's lucky, they might pick the best one, he added.

Hahn was only half joking. Nobody knows what's going to happen so farmers just have to do what they feel is right for them, he said. But no matter what option farmers choose, Hahn suggests all farmers use particular hydrates and chemicals with their situations.

Even if farmers have an alternative in mind, Burger said it's still difficult to act on. "We hardly have anything done," he said. "We can't even make plans because the weather is constantly changing. It's just aggravating."

To top it all off, up until a week ago, cotton farmers were having the best crop of cotton. Now they're feeling the same disappointment as corn and wheat farmers. "Everybody [Southeast Missouri cotton farmers] was so happy their cotton was doing so well," Amy Statler, Monsanto seed representative, said. "And then the cold, damp weather moved in the week before last. The spores came in, and the cotton just couldn't take it. Cotton is a very intensive crop. It's just so sensitive."

Statler said just south of Sikeston to Arkansas, cotton, and even rice farmers are having a tough time. Rice crops were destroyed from frostbite. Statler said a cotton farmer she visited has to replant 2,600 acres of the 4,000 acres he previously planted.

Like the corn and wheat farmers, the cotton farmers are also facing a tough dilemma. Since it's so late in the season, farmers don't know if they should replant their cotton or leave it and try to get the best for the crop they all ready have planted, Statler said. It's a guessing game with them, too.

Strobel said his teenage son loves farming. Strobel's son has his mind set on farming, but Strobel is trying to persuade him to do something else, he said.

The only thing that would help farmers right now is better market prices, Strobel said. "Right now, prices are horrible. I have no chance of making a good yield on my corn. Other countries make their crops cheap and have better market prices--and we're (United States) the ones who helped them build their economies."

Strobel said he's seriously considered giving up farming to focus on another source of income. He doesn't think he's alone either. Strobel isn't really sure if the public knows just how directly affected they or the economy would be by a shortage of farmers.

Strobel said the bottom line is this: "Somebody's gonna have to farm, or I guess we're all just gonna starve to death."