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Serving: NE

Get the frost off our windshield

Curt Arens Irrigation pivot during sunset
OPTIMISM FOR 2021: If we scrape away the darkness of COVID-19, we can allow a little light to shine on the farm looking forward into 2021.
If we scrape COVID-19 stress and anxiety from our minds for a moment, we can look forward with hope as 2021 gets going.

Have you ever been driving down the road in the winter and met a truck with a tiny spot on the windshield scraped clear of frost and snow, just enough for the driver to peep out? Their driving vision is almost completely impaired, and you hope they make it safely to their destination.

Since last spring, we’ve all been “driving” our lives by peeping out of a small portal on the windshield. The challenges that have been put forth because of COVID-19 have impaired our view of the big picture.

The windshields of our lives are frosted up, covered in snow and layered with ice. We can’t get a clear picture of what is before us. That has been the most frustrating part of the pandemic — not being able to plan ahead.

One of my good friends recently reminded me of something I had overlooked. He said, rightfully, that if you took away COVID-19 and the immense worries, illnesses, deaths and stress related to the pandemic, production agriculture did not have a terrible year.

This is not to diminish how treacherous the pandemic has been. We have family members or friends who have been sick with COVID-19, present company included. Too many of us know of family and friends who have passed away, and many of us have experienced the impacts of the illness ourselves.

We know health care workers and emergency volunteers who have been worked to the limits, with no relief in sight.

Looking on the bright side

However, if you put COVID-19 aside, and just look at weather, commodities and outlooks, your vision is much brighter. In many parts of the country, it was a drier-than-normal summer, with some severe drought.

In much of the Great Plains, for instance, planting was easier and earlier this season, compared to the chaos of 2019 flooding. Although the cropping and grazing seasons were dry, many farmers can report surprisingly good yields and calves that remained healthy and grew well on rangeland.

Harvest was relatively easy, and combines did not have to wait for crops or fields to dry down. Farmers saved on drying expenses and equipment breakdowns that always come with a wet, drawn-out harvest. And, crop prices have been encouraging.

At least through the late portions of fall, except for a couple of major snow events, cattle were able to graze crop residue unimpaired. Hay inventories generally look good as we roll into the early months of 2021.

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream, but there have been reasons for optimism. Farmers are the ultimate optimists, always looking to the next growing season with hope. After the pandemic, we have reason to believe that things will balance out, that our hopeful vision will clear up and allow us to move forward with that same optimism.

Kevin Schulz joins the team

On a truly positive note, Kevin Schulz has been named as the new senior staff writer and regional field editor for Nebraska Farmer and Dakota Farmer. Kevin comes to us from National Hog Farmer, and he brings his wealth of agriculture knowledge and experience to our Farm Progress team in Nebraska and the Dakotas.

You can learn more about Kevin in his column called Prairie Post. As you talk with Kevin or meet him down the road, be sure to give him a big Cornhusker welcome.

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