Refurnished Thoughts

Discover Vintage America - AUGUST 2019

Rising from the ashes

by Leigh Elmore

It's been an incredibly disastrous year for many Midwest farmers, caught between natural disasters on one hand and uncertain market prospects on the other. Flooding along the Missouri River has devastated parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, and unusually heavy rains have flooded out fields in Oklahoma as well.

The Overland Park, KS Farmers Market. (photo courtesy Overland Park Chamber of Commerce)

The storms have left millions of acres unseeded in the $51 billion U.S. corn market and put crops that were planted late at a greater risk for damage from severe weather during the growing season. Areas along the Missouri River are still apt to flood this summer as heavy rains have kept upstream reservoirs filled to the brim with large outflows still expected. The Missouri River basin could flood with every rainfall this summer.

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, representing the Coalition to Protect the Missouri River, told a Congressional panel that northwest Missouri had about 187,000 acres under water, none of which will be planted this year. Crops lost just from unplanted acres will top well over $100 million, he said.

Together, the problems heap more pain on a farm sector that has suffered from years of low crop prices.

Forecasts for even more rain sent U.S. corn futures to a five-year high in June, though fewer farmers will benefit from soaring prices because of the planting disruptions, according to a CNBC report. Nationwide, farmers are expected to harvest the smallest corn crop in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nevertheless, the indomitable spirit of so many farmers remains strong as they take this year of upheavals in stride. All across the Midwest, farming communities are proceeding with their summer festivals and especially the antique tractor and engine shows this month and next. This month will see the Old Threshers Show in Montgomery City, MO, the K&O Steam and Gas Show in Winfield, KS and the Deer Creek Sodbusters in Sterling, NE. In September, the Old Trusty tractor enthusiasts of Clay Center, NE will take center stage along with their Kansas counterparts at the Power of the Past show in Ottawa, KS.

If you've never been to one of these shows, this is a good way to get out for a weekend getaway and show your support for farmers in our region. Some of the old steam powered tractors from the late 19th century are virtual locomotives in the fields and are spectacles to behold. The variety of tasks that can be accomplished with one of these machines is amazing – from plowing the field, to harvesting, threshing the grain. They could even be harnessed for sawmilling and other tasks. It's American ingenuity on display.

Another way to show support to farmers is to shop at one of the many area farmers markets, where growers can sell directly to customers. Farmers markets generally help farmers earn an increased profit over selling to wholesalers, food processors, or large grocery firms.

These are small measures indeed, compared to the extent of the problems, but they are measures that you can take.

Leigh Elmore can be contacted at
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