When 2014 began, we looked at what the New Year might hold for Indiana agriculture. We discussed what might happen in the General Assembly, speculated on the crop season and talked about hot trends for ag in the Hoosier state.
The year is now nearly in the books. Here's a look at what actually happened during the "year that was." It featured tremendous crops for many people, yet lower crop prices and twists and turns along the way.
Take a few minutes to click through our slideshow. See if you agree with what we note are the top highlights from 2014.
The faces and places of Indiana agriculture, 2014 >>
Snow and Cold Mark Indiana Winter
No one can see just how extreme a trend will be in weather. Former columnist Jim Newman says you may get the trend right, but you can't tell the extremes.
The 2013-2014 winter turned out to be one of the coldest and snowiest in history, especially in recent memory. It resulted in the most snow days for schools in over three decades. As a result, several schools are piloting programs this year where kids will use their school=-provided computer to work from home on snow days, and the days won't have to be made up.
As cold as it looks!
This was one cold, snowy day in January!
Pilot project for schools
Several school systems, including rural Triton Central schools in Shelby County and suburban New Palestine schools in Hancock County won't let days like these stop them this winter. Students will work from home on-line.
Rain, rain go away >>
Too Much Rain Slows Down Planting Season
The rain gauge overflowed in some areas in Indiana in late April and early May. Crops went in late in many cases. Despite the slow start, when many people planted, soils were in good condition.
There were drowned out spots early and some farming bottomland in southern Indiana were forced to replant whenever large rains farther north brought water flooding out of the creek banks down south. At this point in the season, odds for even a normal crop were iffy.
Even at harvest you could find some water holes in a few fields, usually in very low soils.
Try and try again!
This farmer planted this entire field along a creek in southern Indiana three times, and spotted in the greener corn in front of you as you imagine you're in the combine cab a fourth time. Surprisingly, the yield was over 250 bushels per acre in this field.
New coliseum >>
Renovated Coliseum Opens at Indiana State Fair
The $53 million remodeling project was completed early. Many dignitaries and the press got a look at the building in April. The first major event held there was the Junior Angus national show in July. The entire project, counting the youth arena, was a $63 million effort.
The year ended for the coliseum with the Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Company signing on as 10-year sponsor with naming rights to the coliseum, for a $6 million investment.
In between were some tumultuous times for the fair. The event itself went well, but rumors swirled about a rift between the Indiana State Fair Board and the Indiana State Fair Commission. Where there's smoke, there's usually fire, and there was in this case. The Board finally approved a new governing policy in October, but it's still not clear what role directors will play in the 2015 fair.
Dignitaries gathered outside the Coliseum in April for opening of the renovated venue.
Not as cheery as it looks?
It was all smiles when the annual Ham breakfast was held inside the Coliseum instead of in a tent on the first day of the fair. Everyone was smiling, but the true story was something different – discord among some fair leaders.
Crop yields >>
Crop Yield Go Through the Roof Thanks to Cool Pollination Period
It would turn out to be a year when farmers who normally grew 150 bushels per acre grew over 200 bushels per acre. Those who got enough rain at the right times bumped 250 bushels per acre or more. The biggest factor was the cool weather in July, one of the coolest in history. It led to a near=perfect pollination and early grain fill period.
Look mom, two ears!
Dave Nanda examines lots of ears right after pollination. Many stalks had two ears. Most of the second ears didn't make more than nubbins at best, but in many years, conditions are such that they never even form in the first place.
Lots of corn
There was plenty of corn this fall- so much that lines built up at elevators and in the end, there was no place to put it. Even after filling emergency storage, elevators waited for trains to make room for more corn out of the field.
Cover crops abound >>
Cover Crops and Soil Health Take the State by Storm
Cover crops popped up all over the place, both last spring and again this fall as new cover crops were planted. One farmer, Mike Shuter, Frankton, modified a rig for high-clearance seeding into standing crops, and formed a business to sell his concept to other farmers.
Roger Wenning, Greensburg, held a demonstration day where a soil conservation expert who travels the country with his demonstrations sent smoke rising out of the ground after placing a smoke bomb in Wenning's tile lines. The point was that his improved spoil structure let the smoke make it to the surface. He repeated the test on a farm in South Bend a bit later.
Man with a plan
Barry Fisher of the Natural Resources Conservation Service too to farm field days, even in the cold of January, to show other farmers how to set up equipment to plant into no-till conditions after a cover crop.
Walk and see
Roger Wenning planted a variety of cover crops after wheat so people could see what they look like. Here is a sample of the various cover crops he showed folks late this summer.
Property tax issues still linger >>
Property Tax Issues Still Linger
The legislature delayed the soil productivity changes that would have increased farmland taxes significantly for the third year in a row. Indiana Farm Bureau was deeply involved in stopping this legislation that could have cost farmers an estimated $57 million.
Katrina Hall, Indiana Farm Bureau tax specialist, says that a committee reporting recommendations to legislators put three recommendations that affect agriculture at the top of their list. One would freeze both assessed valuation of farmland and soil productivity factors until a long-term solution to higher farm land taxes could be worked out. She says there is no guarantee the legislature will act, and that it's important to keep pressure on legislators on the property tax issue.
Property tax values climb
Property taxes continue to go up unless the legislature acts based on a formula which doesn't recognize recent downturns in price.
Lead the charge
Katrina Hall testified at the committee hearings that led to a report with recommendations to the legislature for changes in property taxes.