A year makes a big difference when it comes to Moody County farmers getting their crops in the field.
Farmers have 80 percent of corn and 50 percent of beans planted, Joe Knippling, executive director of the Farm Service Agency office in Flandreau, said Monday. Oats are all planted, he said.
At the beginning of May last year, most farmers hadn’t turned a tire in their fields. A longer winter, late snows into May and heavy spring rains meant at least 40,000 acres in Moody County went unplanted, he said.
“We’re way ahead of schedule. I’ve got 80 to 90 percent of the corn planted down in this area,” said Kevin Michel, a farmer with ground north of Dell Rapids in southern Moody County.
“Last year, I don’t think we were in the field yet. It’s so much better this year. The ground is working up great.”
Michel estimates he has about half of his soybean acres planted, too.
“It has got to be a godsend over last year for everyone,” he said.
The hiccup for farmers this year might be the coronavirus threat that has closed packing plants temporarily, backing up the supply from farmers who raise cattle, hogs and chicken.
It’s meant a busy time for locker plants, including Flandreau Meat Locker. Owner Tyler Kills-A-Hundred is booked through July.
“It’s just around the clock, non-stop processing,” he said. He and two others are working seven days a week because of the packing plant situation.
Kills-A-Hundred has been cutting up about 15 hogs a day, at about 40 minutes for each, along with two or three beef, which take much longer.
Most of the hogs that have come through the locker were intended for Smithfield, he said. While the plants start to reopen, there still is a backlog to keep him busy.
“We’ll see how long it takes to get back to a normal routine,” he said.
While lockers throughout the area are booked out with processing months into the future, the change in the livestock portion of farming has added a question mark for crop farmers, too.
“The volume is down. Prices have dropped,” Knippling said.
Despite soggy fields that seemed like they would never dry out, farmers were able to get to almost all of their ground seeded this spring, even areas that never got planted last year, he said.
April this year was chintzy on rains in the area and provided weeks of sunny, warm spring weather that led to fields getting planted early.
The next few weeks are predicted to be cooler with the threat of the possibility of frost in low-lying areas. Rain also is in the forecast.
On Monday morning, Michel took a break from planting to work with his cow-calf operation, waiting for afternoon rains that looked promising. It all added up to a hope-filled day and season.
“If we get some timely rains and get out sunshine back, it could be great,” he said.