MANY farmers who had nearly written off 2017 as a bad year for corn and soybeans have been pleasantly surprised to find better-than-expected yields.
Although the Illinois corn harvest has been delayed, the Associated Press reports that 83 percent of the corn harvest so far has been rated good to excellent. For most farmers, that constitutes a good year.
Yields are far better than would be expected after Quincy precipitation totals fell to 1.63 inches in July and 0.67 inches in September.
"Drought is never good for crops, but the seed varieties being planted are fairly hardy," Pike and Scott Counties Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick told The Herald-Whig.
It also helped that the first frost -- which usually occurs by mid-October -- did not occur until the end of the month. The extra days of warm weather helped plants mature and allowed standing grain to dry.
If the story line for 2017 was unexpected, there also were bright spots that were more typical of farm country. Last week, 18 farmers brought their combines and grain trucks to help harvest about 320 acres for John Ufkes, a Basco farmer who was injured in a fall from his grain trailer.
"It's amazing how some farmers are not finished themselves but will stop to help their neighbor," Ufkes said after visiting the fields to thank those who were helping. "The farming community really rallies around someone when they have a problem."
Les Post, a farmer from Golden, explained it well: "We're just doing what neighbors do."
Farming certainly is big business. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the U.S. had 2.6 million on-farm jobs in 2015. Employment jumps to 21 million full- and part-time jobs when considering the nation's entire farm and food sectors -- 11.1 percent of total U.S. employment.
In economic terms, agriculture accounted for $835 billion of the nation's gross domestic product and nearly $130 billion in agricultural exports.
Farmers invest their money and their energy in the communities where they live. Dollars flowing into farm accounts flow out to pay seed and fertilizer suppliers and bank loans, and to cover the cost of retail purchases. They keep flowing to all other sectors of the economy. Farm equipment manufacturers and dealers benefit directly. Many other business sectors benefit indirectly.
Farmers are an integral part of the American story. Fortunately, these neighbors help write happy endings.