Floods, drought, low commodity prices, high yields, low yields, and no yield--the agriculture industry endured its fair share of ups and downs in 2015.
Often in agriculture, we focus on the struggles and successes of our individual operation--perhaps even our state--and lose sight of what others are going through in our industry. As 2015 ends, here is a look at a few of our state's top ag stories and those making headlines in other areas of the country:
1. Drought relief. It was good news on the weather front for Kansas farmers as late spring brought widespread rains that took the state from mired in drought, to drought-free by the middle of 2015. Timely rains fell over much of the state in April and May and farmers wound up with an average to better-than-average hard red winter wheat harvest.
2. Economic slide. After several years of strong commodity prices and excellent cattle prices, Kansas farmers faced the inevitable downturn that steepened in 2015, pushing farm income down sharply. Coping with that downturn was a big story in Kansas last year and is setting up to be an even bigger one in 2016.
3. Rough weather. Weather delayed corn and soybean planting until June, July, and in some cases--never. Missouri garnered the top spot in the nation for prevented planting acres with more than 500,000 acres of corn and more than 1 million acres of soybean. The upside--the state will have one of the largest cover crop acres in history.
4. Wheat woes. Farmers in Missouri finally started making a dent in the winter wheat harvest in early July, but the crop was riddled with vomitoxin (DON). Local elevators turned away the wheat by the truckloads. Some farmers simply plowed it under, while others risked feeding it to livestock. One small country elevator near Silex, Mo., was the only one in the area taking damaged wheat. Farmers just could not market wheat this year in Missouri.
5. Activists take flight. Animal activists have been running rampant in south central Nebraska. Right around the time livestock producers and other stakeholders found out USDA invited the Humane Society of the United States to the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center near Clay Center for a tour and listening session; producers reported activist-piloted UAVs and helicopters flying over pastures and feedlots in south central Nebraska.
6. Wheat breeding gets boost. It's a new era for wheat research in Nebraska. This spring, Bayer CropScience cut the ribbon at its new Beaver Crossing Breeding and Trait Development Station west of Lincoln. The focus of the facility is delivering breakthrough wheat and soybean varieties with improved technologies and genetics.
7. Record yields. Two South Dakota farmers recorded 288+ bushels per acre in the National Corn Yield Contest. One was irrigated, the other, dryland. Soybean yields reached new records this year, with 106-bushel in the South Dakota Soybean Yield Contest, beating the 103 bushel per acre record in set last year.
8. Farming masters. The 2015 Master Farmers remind us that farming and ranching is about more than dollars and cents. A son nominated his father, who raised him alone when he started out farming, for recognition. A woman nominated her husband for his "love of the land and livestock." An agronomist nominated his client not only for his success in the field, but on the field – he's also a track coach who mentors kids to succeed in life.
Meanwhile in Minnesota
9. Avian flu. 108 farms across the Minnesota were affected by the outbreak causing animal health officials and affected poultry producers to euthanize birds, dispose of carcasses, and disinfect farms. Industry also took a hit from avian flu. In May, more than 200 workers will be laid off at the Fairbault, Minn., Jennie-O turkey processing plant due to impacts of the outbreak.
10. Government grab. Gov. Mark Dayton's buffer initiative was signed into law earlier this year. The law will establish new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along rivers, streams and ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment. The DNR is scheduled to produce final maps by July 2016.