LAFAYETTE COUNTY – In the past 18 months, Lafayette County has experienced less than perfect weather with the county seeing several days of flooding multiple times, which has never been seen before. That weather put a lot of pressure on the main economy in Lafayette County: agriculture.
Lafayette County contains 405,760 acres of land. Farmland makes up 84 percent, or 342,518 acres, with 77 percent being cropland and 12 percent being pastureland.
“The 2019 fall harvest has been a long slow process,” according to Josh Kamps, Lafayette County’s UW-Extension Agriculture Educator.
The weather conditions from the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019 put the planting process behind by two to three weeks and that carried over into the fall harvest season.
Much of the second crop of alfalfa was stressed due to the cold cloudy weather in late May and June.
“These same poor spring harvest conditions also meant the spring planting conditions were poor. A choice between planting a crop and electing to enter a prevent planting claim with crop insurance was made for many acres in the county,” Kamps said.
The weather seen in July and August boosted the spirits of farmers and advanced crop development throughout the county, giving everyone some hope. But the dip in temperatures, more rain and an early snow in September, October, and November tested the farming community once again.
According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) snapshot from the week ending Nov. 24, Wisconsin had 4.2 days of suitable fieldwork. Fieldwork is progressing slow but moving along in areas where soil is firm enough.
Grain moistures remained unusually high for this time of year with corn moisture at harvest at 23 percent on average, which is down one percent from the previous week but well above 18 percent from last year
The higher than desired corn moisture at harvest has lead to high demand for natural gas and liquid propane to dry the crop to safe moisture levels for storage. Some farms are opting to store corn at high moisture rather than pay for drying.
According to the USDA, harvest for corn for grain is 57 percent complete, 22 days behind last year and 18 days behind the five-year average. Corn averaged 246 bushels per acre, which was steady with last year. Corn condition for Wisconsin was 46 percent good and 20 percent excellent.
Soybean harvest is 82 percent complete, 18 days behind last year and 25 days behind the average. Soybeans in the southern region are averaging 72 bushels for conventional soybeans and 74 bushels for herbicide resistance soybeans. These yields are similar to Lafayette County.
For Wisconsin, 69 percent of winter wheat is 24 days behind last year and 27 days behind the average. It was conditioned at 50 percent good to excellent. The fourth cutting of alfalfa hay was 93 percent complete. Fall tillage was reported as 39 percent complete, 18 days behind last year and 25 days behind the average.
Prices of crops continue to put stress on the agriculture community. Local grain cash prices are $3.35 for corn and $8.27 for soybeans. These prices are below the cost of production on most farms.
“Since farming is a business, way of life and an identity for many of the citizens of Lafayette County, the stress of tough times is always present,” Kamps said.
Wisconsin saw a record 915 suicides among farmers in 2017. Suicide rates are about 50 percent higher today than they were during the farm crisis of the 1980s. Access to mental health is more sporadic in rural areas but that does not mean there isn’t help out there. Lafayette County Human Services, located at 15701 County Road K in Darlington has services for those who are having suicidal thoughts, depression, or need someone to talk to. For those who wish to speak with someone immediately, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
“When the tough times leave and better times return, farmers will be able to fully enjoy their effort. Agriculture will continue to push through the adversity it is faced with in Lafayette County and beyond,” Kamps concluded.