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How agriculture is fighting coronavirus and a 2020 growing season weather forecast | The Spokesman Speaks Podcast, Episode 36

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Welcome to Episode 36 of The Spokesman Speaks podcast. This episode, hosted by Delaney Howell, features economists Dr. Sam Funk (Iowa Farm Bureau) and Dr. Chad Hart (Iowa State University) talking about the impact coronavirus is having on agriculture and what agriculture is doing to fight back. We also have a 2020 growing season weather forecast from ag climatologist Dr. Dennis Todey (Director of USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub). This episode also refers to free and confidential resources available to farm families who are coping with stress right now. Those resources are available here

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Narrator: Welcome to The Spokesman Speaks, a podcast from Iowa's leading agricultural new source brought to you by the Iowa Farm Bureau. Now here's your host.

Delaney Howell: Welcome to the April 6th edition of The Spokesman Speaks Podcast. I'm Delaney Howell and I'll be your host as we unpack Iowa agriculture's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today's episode features four fantastic interviews. First Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill will discuss Farm Bureau's response to COVID-19. We'll follow that up with economists Dr. Sam Funk and Dr. Chad Hart talking about COVID-19's economic impact on agriculture and what's being done to lessen that impact. Finally, we'll share an interview with Dr. Dennis Todey of USDA's Midwest Climate Hub. Dr. Todey Is going to forecast the weather we can expect for the upcoming growing season. That's right, although COVID-19 has dealt as an incredible blow, we know we've got a job to do starting with spring planting. So be sure to stick around for Dr. Todey's forecast later in the episode. First let's start with Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill, who recently shared his thoughts on the impact COVID-19 is having on Iowa agriculture.

Craig Hill: I think the biggest impact of course, is concern for everyone's health and how this and pandemic will evolve and how it'll affect our lives in general. But the economic disruptions and the financial disruptions, all of these impacts on an already strained farm economy are a very, very big concern. We've seen markets declined to where most of the commodities that we produce are no longer profitable in the futures market. So a lot of concerns there. Disruptions in supply chain, you know, we see a lot of volatility, a lot of question marks whether people will be able to go to work and perform the duties and the goals that are set out for them to make sure that we have a stable and reliable food supply going forward. I will tell you the farmers though have worked each and every day. We're committed to rising up every morning and every night to our livestock and to grow and to grow and tend to our crops. It's who we are. I think 98% of Iowa's farms are family operations. And so the social distancing aspect of this crisis is not all that difficult or as challenging as it may be for some others because we do work alone oftentimes, but it's been extremely important for farmers to know as they do about biosecurity and keep a safe distances and to do things properly and appropriately.

Delaney Howell: While agriculture adjusts to a completely unprecedented landscape, Craig shared the work Farm Bureau is doing to serve its members.

Craig Hill: With our members, we're hoping to get the good communication from our governor's office out to them and keep that communication line open. We're also looking out for members in terms of our policy goals and objectives, monitoring the impacts of this virus and what it's doing to markets. Contingency planning comes into that. So the emerging issues in the food supply chain and making sure that the workforce is there, able to get the job done, bringing inputs into our farms and then taking the output that we produce and getting it moved to the consumer or the customer. And that includes, you know, moving it across seas to our trade partners. Keeping goods flowing is the most important thing right this juncture.

Delaney Howell: Craig also shared that in addition to supporting farm and ag relief through initiatives like the recently passed Coronavirus aid relief and economic security act now is a time to keep a close eye on any potential marketplace manipulation.

Craig Hill: Well, farmers of course produce commodities and in the commodity world we are price takers, we're not price setters and we have little influence over the price that we receive. It lends itself oftentimes for others that take advantage of us. We suspected there may be some advantage taken in the marketplace. So we're monitoring this very closely. We've made some complaints to USDA. I will continue to do that and monitor the situation and represent farmers in this very volatile marketplace that we find ourselves in.

Delaney Howell: Craig also wanted us to let you know how you can stay updated on Farm Bureau's continued work on your behalf in this challenging environment. You can stay plugged into that work through the weekly Spokesman newspaper and online via Iowafarmbureau.com, social media, email and future podcast episodes. We now turn our attention to Iowa Farm Bureau Senior Economist Dr. Sam Funk for more insights into the effects of the Coronavirus and what agriculture is doing to fight back. Spokesman Editor Dirck Steimel spoke with Dr. Funk over the phone last week. Let's listen in.

Dirck Steimel: Sam, from a broad perspective, what's been the impact of this pandemic on Iowa agriculture and which sectors have been hit particularly hard and which sectors could actually benefit from it, if any?

Dr. Sam Funk: Well, I think the biggest impact for our agriculture is really when you start out just looking at the economic disruptions that's taken place on broader scale, whether it be globally across the United States, directly in the state of Iowa itself. One of the biggest aspects we've seen on a global scale has really been the energy prices that have really tumbled down. If you go to the pump, you'll find that gasoline prices have gone down due to a number of factors, not just COVID-19, which has resulted in a lower number of cars that are traveling across the roads, but also because of some energy price impacts have happened with some of the major players of crude oil production in the United States. So because of that, with the lower fuel prices, that also puts a challenge on the ethanol prices as well. And Iowa leads all of the states in the U.S. for ethanol production. So when we think about some of those ethanol margins that have actually been below the cost of production for ethanol, it puts a real strain of the economic ability of those ethanol plants to continue. We've actually had some that have shut down for what we hope is temporary here in the state and in other states around us. So it's important for us to be able to think about what kind of an impact ethanol has made on agriculture in Iowa. And it's been a large scale demand user for thinking about where our corn crop goes across the state. So when you think about a shutdown in these plants, every county that we've got in the state of Iowa, which has, if you will, a importing of drawing grain from other counties around it, those are all places where really ethanol has been a strong driver for demand in those counties. So when we lose those plants and they shut down, even on a temporary basis, it creates a lot of disturbances through our marketing channel, through the demand for corn. Another aspect is it's not just ethanol that's produced in those plants. It's also aspects like CO2, which is produced there, which they harvest that CO2 and they use it in processing plants for harvesting livestock, for being able to produce meat in a number of other uses. So it's a really important aspect which will have ripple effects in through other aspects of agriculture and throughout the state. Obviously you can think about restaurant and food service facilities which are shut down, which one that could create, you know, very difficult hardships when you think about the number of people across the state who are employed and have income and that's a primary breadwinner sometimes who may not have employment now. And then also about the direct demands as well for some of our higher value meats, their higher value was because they went to restaurants and food service facilities and now we're changing some of those consumption patterns and we're also changing the logistics about what type of meats are preferred or what products need to go somewhere and what could happen in through there. You know, you think about logistics right now during this planning time of year, you think about the parts distributors, you think about the facilities. For some of our agricultural producers, it's a really important time to be able to get adjusted and ready for spring planning. So there's going to be a lot of stress in that adjustment factor. You know, we've also just had word that came out as of March 30th that there'd be a processing plant in Pennsylvania, a livestock processing plant, which is going to shutter its doors for at least two weeks and then reevaluate where they're going to be at because they had cases of COVID there. One thing we want to emphasize out through here, food safety is of the utmost importance and FDA, USDA and others have all come to the same conclusion that it's not necessary for plants to shutter when they have a case of COVID we really just need to focus in on that there are a lot of things positive still out there that agriculture is being a provide for those people, although we're filling that economic pinch as well, and our thoughts and prayers are with everybody who's impacted by COVID, the agricultural supply chain is not just an essential industry, but it's an industry which will continue to make for a safe and a strong food supply for everybody across the United States. It's still meeting the needs for the world and the global demand as well. So if you want to talk about a direct benefit for some sectors, maybe some groups that have a direct opportunity to market to consumers so they can provide the food stuff that some of the logistics supply chains have not been able to restock some of the grocery shelves. They might be able to benefit from this type of a COVID endeavor, but at the same time it's really a burden to many in agriculture as well as the economy as a whole. So I wouldn't say there's really a one winner out of this whole aspect. It's a bunch of people having to pull together and make sure that we're able to provide for the global needs.

Dirck Steimel: Why is the federal government's pandemic aid package so important to Iowa farmers and what parts do you see as the most important for farmers?

Dr. Sam Funk: The first aspect again is the economic recovery for the nation and trying to make sure that everybody's going to be able to get back to a higher level of demand and then were able to focus in for the logistics supply chains and make sure that everything is going to come back into a status where we'll be able to sustainably continue to do those things which provide the nation in the world with the food, fiber and other products that we depend on from agriculture. So if you think about what's important for that pandemic aid package, it's really being able to get everybody back into the, you know, into the steam things to make sure that it's all gonna work out well and the system's going to continue it to function. Directly you've got a CCC borrowing authority, which is been increased now again for USDA. And that's an important aspect as USDA considers what it might be able to look at for providing aid to several in agriculture. As we think about agriculture as a small business, as we think about agriculture as the system which is necessary to the functioning of the United States, that borrowed authority can be very valuable to be able to look at alternative programs that might come into place from USDA. The other aspect is that USDA Secretary Perdue has been now been given authority for direct aid programs for a number of different produce suppliers for livestock and others who will be looking at what they might have as a direct meet in through there, and we're talking about billions of dollars out through here, but still a relatively small portion of the overall aid package that's been developed by the federal government but a very necessary portion of that be able to provide for agriculture and for the direct needs they're going to have there.

Dirck Steimel: Exports are very important to Iowa crop and livestock farmers. Has the pandemic affected exports of crops and livestock?

Dr. Sam Funk: Probably the biggest impact we've seen for exports directly for the United States has been purely in the logistics to be able to get products, moved out to those ports. Obviously you've got a lot of truckers right now on the road who have a lot of hours they're putting it through there and we're looking to make sure that we've got a sustainable plan in place to be able to allow for people to get products moved. You've got truckers who have to get product into domestic markets and it's going to compete for a little bit with some of those export markets. But we, you're right, we still have a lot of export potential and a lot of needs for exports to go from our shores into other markets. So that's obviously a very important thing we'll have, but logistics will be the one challenging place we look at first. And it's also very important to think about the fact that we've got some of those recently concluded trade agreements in place. And I'm so glad that we're able to have those already there. Because hopefully when we get this economic turmoil to settle down across the globe, we'll be able to make use of those agreements and be able to get more product moving in a free flowing fashion without the encumbrances and some of those aspects that would have been barriers to us that's supporting had we not already had those trade agreements in place. So it will be very important for us to be able to develop those export markets and bring those back up into full speed. Already we're seeing some stress in certain areas across the globe, which are export competitors for the United States, and so it's very important for us to be able to get everything back on track so that we're able to make use of our ability to export to other markets around the globe.

Dirck Steimel: Sam, what are some steps that Iowa farmers can do to help protect themselves economically in these unprecedented times?

Dr. Sam Funk: Well, it is an unprecedented time for our generation. There are other generations obviously, which have seen challenges and the one thing we know about agriculture, we're very resilient and it's critical at this point in time that we think about, you know, first let's make sure that we're able to check in with our neighbors, our friends, our family. Because while these are challenging economic times, we need to make sure that everybody's being able to keep up with a lot of different facets including the health and wellbeing, including mental wellbeing of all of our family and friends. And thinking directly about what producers can do right now. Obviously we mentioned about this being spring planning time, so if we think about some of the logistic challenges that may occur or some of the business opening challenges for groups that might have maybe key people who have some sort of outbreak with COVID on your farm it's important to try to make sure if you have multiple people engaged that you've got cross training in case somebody should come down with COVID or being able to work that you've got somebody to be able to fill in for those needs. Another aspect is it's already time to start thinking about getting inputs in for the spring planting season onto your farm and that's especially important now if we think of some of the input suppliers who might have their shelves stocked right now with the inputs you need but should we have some sort of a shelter in place, it might be more difficult to get those products moved to your farm. If you can bring those supplies onto your farm, bring the seed and other inputs that you would have need for. It's a good time to be able to bring those onto your farm so you have direct access to them and not have to go through another business to be able to bring them onto your farm. So please as much as you're able to go ahead and prepare and be ready for the spring planting season and for certain other needs you may have on your operations.

Delaney Howell: I'm sure you'd agree that it's difficult to forecast really anything right now, so we definitely appreciate those updates from Dr. Funk. Of course, we're all tapping into multiple sources for the latest updates and projections and farmers are no different. With that in mind, I also called Iowa State University economist Dr. Chad Hart last week to get his take on where agriculture stands and what we can expect in the months to come. Well, Dr. Chad Hart, thank you so much for joining us today on the Spokesman Speaks Podcast. Let's dig right into it here. We are in a time really of uncertainty right now going on because of COVID-19 from an economic perspective for agriculture. Give us your big picture takeaways. What can we expect as we continue to move through these uncertain times?

Dr. Chad Hart: Well, it's a mixed bag for agriculture right now. What we're seeing in the marketplace to sort of, you know, some positive news, some negative news. Looking at the crops we've seen soybeans actually, you know, see a price drop initially with COVID-19 but then recover most of that basically, you know, due to the strength we've seen in the international markets for soybeans. Corn faced that same initial drop but hasn't been able to recover and a lot of that is linked to the impact COVID-19 is having upon gasoline and ethanol demand holding corn. But then the real impacts have been on the livestock industry. We've seen while retail sales of meat have jumped fairly strongly, we've also seen futures prices for our live cattle and our lean hog nose dive on concerns about the ability of the supply chain to continue to move forward.

Delaney Howell: And I want to come back to a couple of those points, specifically the biofuel and what's been going on in that industry. But Dr. Hart, as you look at 2020, I feel like back at the beginning of this year, forecasts and analysts were expecting us to maybe have somewhat of a turnaround or a rebound year this year with perhaps better commodity prices and a better outlook for 2020. Is that completely out of the question now with COVID-19?

Dr. Chad Hart: It's not completely out of the question, but definitely the circumstances are a lot weaker than we started out the year. Again, I'll go back. When we're looking at soybeans right now, we have seen, you know, some recovery even in the face of this outbreak and that speaks to the strength of the demand that we had for that crop. But as we're looking at you know, especially in the corn market, the idea is that COVID-19 is sort of pulling the rug out from under what we saw as fairly significantly strong demand as we moved into 2019 and it will really come down to, can we keep the supply chains moving to bolster that price outlook as we've work out over the next six to nine months.

Delaney Howell: Six to nine months seems like quite a long time to have some uncertainty in the marketplace.

Dr. Chad Hart: It is. But you know, again, we're seeing uncertainty in the public health arena and you know, in the economic arena as we look here, I think, like I say, the biggest thing that I'm noticing right now is that when we're looking at our supply chains, whether it's reading to our own domestic grocery stores or whether it's speaking into our international markets, so far the news has been good. We've been able to continue to move product along and that bodes well for recovery of prices once we can get past COVID-19.

Delaney Howell: And the other industry that you mentioned there just previously that's had some pretty dire affects because of COVID-19 has been the biofuels industry. We've seen quite a few ethanol facilities and biofuel facilities pullback production or close down temporarily because of lack of, as well as a steep decline in oil prices. How will this current crisis in the ethanol and biodiesel industries impact corn and soybean growers moving forward?

Dr. Chad Hart: Well, thus far, I like to say it's been the split. As you look between the two crops, soybean has held up relatively well. Given that biodiesel, you're looking mainly there at, you know, commercial trucking industry. Like I said, we've kept those supply chains moving along with those trucks moving diesel and biodiesel have held up relatively well. When we're looking at corn and ethanol the news has been more dire. And when we're looking there you've got to divide this as a sort of two major camps as to what's happening to the corn and ethanol prices. One, as you mentioned, COVID-19 and the sort of shutdowns that we've seen as we have more people staying home as opposed to going to work. We've seen, you know, pull backs and you know, basically let's call it passenger car transportation has dropped demand for ethanol and gasoline at the same time too we have this major production fight going on in the global oil market with Saudi Arabia and Russia continuing to ramp up production, which is driving oil prices down significantly. You put that combination of news stories into the biofuel mix and it does create a rather dire short term situation for ethanol factories margins. And that's why we have seen a lot of those plants cut back on production or just shut down altogether.

Delaney Howell: And as you look at long-term impacts here, what are we expecting or what are you expecting to see as far as corn demand cut because of the lack of ethanol production going on?

Dr. Chad Hart: Well, when we look here, we're probably looking at a cut of it, you know, we're talking about hundreds of millions of bushels of demand leaving the marketplaces. We're not producing that ethanol. The big question here will really come as we get into the latter half of the year and do we see production levels if you will force the hand within the renewable fuel standard. When you think about what the RFS does is it does maintain a base level of ethanol that has to be blended within the U.S. steel market. This sort of crisis is gonna force us down to those production levels to force the RFS to really kick in and support the industry and so how quickly do we see that occur, it could go a long way to telling us just how much demand on the corn side were losing through ethanol.

Delaney Howell: And I just have this feeling that once at least the stay at home orders go out of effect and people are allowed to leave their houses again there'll be at least a short influx of people getting out there and driving their cars and getting out and getting about places. When you look at prices of ethanol and biodiesel in particular, how long do you think this recovery process is going to take and do you think it's going to be just a short influx of a spike in prices and then back down to maybe levels where we are now? Or what's your outlook there, Dr. Hart?

Dr. Chad Hart: Well, I think when we're looking here, as you mentioned, you know, we will see recovery as people are released from, you know, the stay at home orders or just the shelter in place orders. And so that will bring a boost to demand for both gasoline and ethanol as we're looking here. But to me the, the longer term fight is really watching the oil market. And like I say, watching what's happening between Saudi Arabia and Russia right now, because that may have a larger impact, if you will, on the corn and ethanol markets then what COVID-19 is happening right now. You can see that COVID-19 is sort of the temporary shift due to everybody sheltering in place, but the longer term impacts are really going to come from that that production fight that's happening right now globally.

Delaney Howell: And we've been spending so much of our time focusing on COVID-19 but it's crazy to think that planting for this year is really right around the corner for a lot of farmers. For acreage expectations are you anticipating that COVID-19 will alter planting decisions and acreage expectations for 2020?

Dr. Chad Hart: At this point I don't see COVID-19 really impacting planted acres all that much. When we're looking at the relative price standings, you know and what's happened under COVID-19, soybean outlook has improved a little bit relative to corn, but the idea is when I'm looking at the board right now and figuring out margins for the two crops, corn still has the relative advantage and so I'm sticking fairly close to what USDA has already outlined where we're sitting here thinking, you know, we're going to see somewhere close to 94 million acres of corn, about 85 million acres of soybeans and as long as you know folks can stay relatively healthy and the weather cooperates, we should be able to get that, you know, nearly 180 million acres planted across the country.

Delaney Howell: Well, switching tracks just slightly here. I also wanted to ask your opinion about some recent announcements as part of the federal government's pandemic relief package or stimulus package that was recently passed. Are these payments going to be enough to offset the potential damage to farmers income caused by the crisis?

Dr. Chad Hart: I think when we're looking here, they definitely go a long way to filling in the gap. But it's, you know, until we fully see how long COVID-19 sort of dominates, if you will be the economic landscape, we won't know whether these fully compensate for that or just partial compensate. What we do know is that the federal government has definitely tried to target the commodities that have been most adversely impacted within the stimulus package that they passed. They definitely look to target more of that assistance to the livestock industry, the dairy industry, fruit and vegetable production because those are the commodities where we've seen the, if you will, the largest swings in prices due to COVID-19. But Congress also shored up base support for all commodities and made sure that USDA has plenty of funds in order to address issues as we move forward over the next few months.

Delaney Howell: Well it certainly sounds like it is going to be a wait and see game as it usually is. Dr. Hart, thank you so much again for joining and sharing your insight.

Dr. Chad Hart: It was my pleasure to be with you today.

Delaney Howell: A special thanks to Dr. Hart, Dr. Funk and President Hill for sharing their COVID-19 assessments with us. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot more from each of them in the weeks to come. Of course, these COVID-19 conversations happened leading up to the release of the April 6th episode so they're based on the best info available at that time. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic we encourage you to follow updates from the governor's office, the CDC, USDA, and other state and federal agencies for the very latest information. Okay, so I know it's hard to unglue ourselves from the daily coronavirus news, but at some point we've got to do it. You have crops that need planting, maybe ground that needs tilling and I know you're all wondering what kind of weather is in store for you. For that, as promised, we go to Dr. Dennis Todey. Dr Todey is an ag climatologist and he's the director of USDA's Midwest Climate Hub. So what can we expect from mother nature during the 2020 growing season? Corey Munson tracked down Dennis Todey to find out. Corey take it away.

Corey Munson: So I think the biggest question folks are really asking right now is 2020 going to be another 2019?

Dr. Dennis Todey: That's a definite question people have been asking because 2019 was so damaging, so rough on people and record setting in so many different ways. And the setup going into 2020 has some similarities to 2019. Fortunately we can pretty safely say that 2020 would not be a repeat of 2019 you know, unless some more extreme things happen because several things that had to happen already have not, we haven't had as much snow, we haven't had as much frozen ground. So the ground has been able to dry a bit. So we're pretty confident that 2019 will not be repeated 2020. That said, we're not saying 2019 is going to be great. There are some problems and issues that we're dealing with still in wet soils and potential for additional rainfall. So that's the thing. Not as bad as last year, but we still have some issues we're going to have to deal with.

Corey Munson: What are the flooding risks, especially along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers this year?

Dr. Dennis Todey: Given our wetness situation from last fall and actually our last couple of years, we have a lot of water in the soils. Our hydrologic systems are quite full, so the risk for flooding on the rivers is still very apparent and according to NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration folks, the bigger risk right now seems to be along the Mississippi River because streams are already full. We have some snow melt in Minnesota and Wisconsin that will go into the river and then expected additional precipitation. So it looks like that is probably the bigger one. The Missouri has some potential flooding, but the Missouri does have the dam system that they have been able to evacuate storage capacity to be able to deal with potential heavy precipitation and hold that back. The Mississippi does not have that capability. The dams don't have any ability to hold water back to store much water. So that's going to be our larger one. From an ag perspective, the land adjacent to the Mississippi River is less hampered by flooding, unlike along the Missouri River Valley. But the issues we do have along the Mississippi are transport up and down the river, so transport of grain out and fertilizer and other things possibly coming in, maybe hampered because of the potential flooding. That was a problem last year as we were unable to get some fertilizer shipped in. And though some, some other grain didn't go out because of the amount of flooding and the prolonged flooding that existed especially on the Mississippi River.

Corey Munson: A lot of folks talk about El Nino and La Nina. How do these patterns affect our weather here and what is our status currently?

Dr. Dennis Todey: When we're talking about El Nino and La Nina, we're talking about sea surface temperatures, the temperature of the ocean, water and parts of the Pacific, particularly at the equator and the Eastern Pacific. And what happens is when those change temperatures from too warm to cold, that influences the atmosphere near them and those atmospheric patterns then shift other patterns that can affect us. They can affect South America, their grain growing regions there. So that is why we watch them. They also give us an ability to talk about what's happening at a longer term, maybe more months ahead of time with a little more certainty because we have higher probabilities of certain things happening. Typically for us, the summer during an El Nino tends to be better growing season. Summer's during a La Nina can be a worst growing season. There've been a few bad drought events that have occurred during La Nina events. So our current right now as we are what would look like, the edge of an El Nino event, it probably won't make it officially be declared one because we have not been at the, at a warm enough temperature for a long enough period of time. There's a time period and a strength that are involved here. So we're officially in neutral conditions between El Nino, La Nina. There are some computer models that take us toward La Nina by later in the growing season in the fall, so that's why we're going to watch those. I don't think they're going to transition quickly enough to be a problem, but we will need to watch those as we go along during the summertime because if those were to transition to La Nina, we could potentially have some problems towards the end of the growing season. Right now we don't expect that to happen, so we're not too concerned about it.

Corey Munson: What is your best guess for conditions when farmers get ready to start planting?

Dr. Dennis Todey: The issues that you know, we talked about a bit. We have very wet soils already. Some of them maybe are a little better than we went into last year, some may be a little bit worse. Pretty much everywhere in the corn belt is wet at this point,. Eastern corn belt was not quite as wet. They're quickly wedding up and have had some flooding issues already. Iowa, the central corn belt is going to get wetter. We're already somewhat wet and soils, the Northern Plains is also wet, so pretty much everywhere is wet. So even if we don't get too much more precipitation, there's going to be planting delays and we do expect some additional precipitation to happen. So we therefore expect delays to be happening. They may not be severe but it's going to be some slower going. It right now does like there is some potential for some dryness getting into April. That's a positive thing, but we will need some decent amount of dryness to be able to get production moving, get planting moving. So there will be windows. We expect there to be windows. Unfortunately they may not be large windows and so people need to be able to ready to go, to take advantage of them while balancing having appropriate soil conditions so they're not getting out and soils that aren't ready to have equipment on them.

Corey Munson: Given the year we're anticipating in an addition to what you've already mentioned, what actions should farmers be taking right now in preparation?

Dr. Dennis Todey: Obviously people are going to start getting ready for planting. That's an appropriate thing to do. Getting equipment ready and getting set for field work. I would also encourage them to think ahead about what the conditions could be and start doing some planning and setting some dates for making decisions so that they're not caught at a point where we're too far behind and a crisis mode decision. People should set out dates that goes alternatives. You know, can I move to a shorter season variety? Can I switch to something? Or do I prevent plant? What people need to do will need to base on their own local conditions and planting and their own economic conditions. But start thinking about those things now. They should also be ready to look ahead and once we're going and see how delayed planting we are about thinking the rest of the growing season. If we are delayed planting, then it's very possible you start neat as dirt. Think about harvest like we did last year where we were quite late and we know we'll be harvesting late and maybe harvesting a high moisture. So do we start working on propane? We've got tools that can help people track where they are during the growing season in the way of corn development. So the, I mean, the big thing is start thinking ahead and start thinking about alternatives should they need to get to that point and when you would start implementing those alternatives.

Corey Munson: Where should farmers go to get the latest and best information regarding conditions and the future forecasts?

Dr. Dennis Todey: We help try to create some ag outlooks where we summarize pieces of information into a short report called our Ag Focus Outlook. It's available on our website just search Midwest Climate Hub and go to the outlooks page. We use information from a few partners, one of those is National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. They have a set of outlooks that do six to 10 day and eight to 14 day outlooks out to a year in advance. It's a good one to check, especially pretty regularly on near-term what might be happening the following week, especially if you're getting near to make some critical decisions. We also work with two regional climate centers in part of our area, the Midwest Regional Climate Center at the University of Illinois and the High Plains Regional Climate Center at the University of Nebraska. They have some very nice maps tracking what's going on in local temperature and precipitation. If you're looking for current forecasts, National Weather Service, weather.gov is a good place to be finding out, especially in weather events, what's going on and with forecast information.

Delaney Howell: I think one of my key takeaways is something that Dr. Todey mentioned near the beginning of that interview. While 2020 is sure to present its own challenges, it's not setting up to be a repeat of 2019 and thank goodness for that. If we're looking for silver linings, I think that's a great place to start. Okay we've nearly reached the end of this episode. I know this one was a bit longer than most and had a lot of important information for you to chew on, but we felt it was important to spend some extra time during these extraordinary circumstances we're facing right now, so thanks for sticking around. Before we go, I want to direct your attention to a set of free and confidential resources that Iowa Farm Bureau has compiled for farm families who are dealing with stress in these uncertain times. If you had to Iowafarmbureau.com you'll find those resources at the top of the homepage. Whether it's for you or someone you care about. We hope that you'll find those resources useful and tap into some great folks who are happy to help. Well, that's it for this episode of The Spokesman Speaks. I'm Delaney Howell and if you've enjoyed this episode, I hope you'll hit subscribe and join us for our next episode on April 20th. Until then, I hope that you stay safe, protect your loved ones and find new ways of responding to the challenges of feeding our neighbors in Iowa and around the globe. Thanks for reading The Spokesman and thanks for listening to The Spokesman Speaks.

Narrator: Thank you for listening to The Spokesman Speaks, a podcast by Iowa Farm Bureau. Check out more podcasts and articles from The Spokesman at IowaFarmBureau.com/Spokesman. You can also find and subscribe to The Spokesman Speaks Podcast in the Apple Podcasts app, Google Play, and other popular podcast apps. We appreciate your ratings and reviews and welcome your feedback at Podcast@ifbf.org.

About The Spokesman Speaks Podcast

Since 1934,  The Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman has been Iowa’s leading agriculture news source, and today it is the largest circulation ag newspaper in Iowa. While the Spokesman newspaper is available exclusively to Iowa Farm Bureau members, The Spokesman Speaks podcast is available publicly, reaching farmers on-the-go with stories that matter to them. You can  find episodes of the podcast here or subscribe and listen in your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneInRadio, or Radio.com.

We release new podcast episodes every other Monday. Episode 37 will be released on April 20, 2020.



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