South Dakota Corn hosted another successful annual meeting on January 19 in Sioux Falls. Many farmers braved the frigid temperatures to enjoy a full day of speakers and educational presentations.
The first session of the day featured Ed Duggan from Top Third Marketing and Tommy Grisafi of Advance Trading presenting grain marketing perspectives. South Dakota State University College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences Dean John Killefer presented during lunch. The day wrapped up with a panel discussion on trade, policy and transportation issues that included Floyd Gaibler from the U.S. Grains Council, Greg Guthrie of BNSF Railway and Jason Hofer of The Gavilon Group.
The evening banquet included a silent auction, music and keynote by Pheasants Forever national President and CEO Howard Vincent. The popular Johnny Holm Band closed out the evening, as well as a raffle for a John Deere Gator.
As always, South Dakota Corn handed out their annual awards to those who support corn farmers in our state. State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich received the Most Valuable Player Award. The late Al Miron, Sioux Falls, was recognized with the Excellence in Agriculture Award. Representative Kent Peterson, Salem, received the Legislative Leadership Award. Jarrett Renshaw of Reuters News was honored with the Public Outreach Award.
Farmers Fascinated by the Weather
While the annual meeting was a resounding success, one of the speakers intrigued the audience: Eric Snodgrass, co-founder of Global Weather & Climate Logistics. Snodgrass also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the University of Illinois Department of Atmospheric Sciences.
In his professional experience, Snodgrass has discovered that weather information that farmers receive is not very beneficial. To overcome this obstacle, Snodgrass and a colleague created Global Weather & Climate Logistics, which specializes in providing short-term and seasonal forecasts that affect the agricultural community throughout the growing season. These forecasts of 1 to 15 days are a tool to help farmers develop predictive analytics.
“Regardless of what we could do with short and long-term weather forecasting, Mother Nature is going to do her best to throw a monkey wrench at us,” Snodgrass says. “A study by the National Weather Service found that South Dakota is one of the least predictable places in the U.S. for weather.”
With that in mind, Snodgrass points out the factors that can impact weather in South Dakota, including the Canadian and Arctic air masses, jet stream, the Rocky Mountains, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
“Depending on how those things jockey for position on any given day, the weather in the Midwest can be influenced by one or all of them,” he says.
Weather’s Impact on Agriculture
Snodgrass and his team looked back at 70 years of weather data to analyze long-term weather trends and what that means for South Dakota corn farmers.
“We found changes in growing season length, the timing, amount and delivery method of precipitation and more,” notes Snodgrass. “The biggest changes we’re experiencing are that overnight low temperatures are warmer, and it’s wetter on the whole than 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years ago.”
Although farmers will still have to deal with heat waves and drought, Snodgrass says South Dakota corn farmers can expect to see more favorable weather conditions happening more frequently.
“That additional 20 to 40 days in the frost-free season allows farmers to plant earlier and a better chance of bigger yields,” he says.
Be Prepared for Bad Weather
Farmers are used to keeping records on a lot of things—yields, which varieties they plant, the type of fertilizer used, where it was applied, how much was applied and much more. Snodgrass recommends adding another type of record to your list—that of weather events and how they impact your farming operation.
“If you see a specific weather event in the forecast, then you can act accordingly and more efficiently, helping minimize potential loss,” Snodgrass says.
To help your farming operation be more resilient when faced with negative weather conditions, Snodgrass says the best thing farmers can do is to maintain soil health.
“The healthier the soil, in terms of tilth, organic matter, susceptibility to erosion, etc., the less impact on yields, both in that season and future seasons,” he says.
Snodgrass points out that there are a lot of reputable sources for South Dakota farmers to get information on weather, including his website, http://www.agrible.com, the National Weather Service and even your local meteorologist.
“Vet your own local meteorologist,” he encourages. “If they’re performing well, then use them as your weather source. Unfortunately, there aren’t any good apps yet—we’re just not there yet.”
Media, Climate Shift Are Factors
It may seem like we see more and more coverage of weather events today, thanks to the 24/7 media coverage cycle. However, Snodgrass says that although long-term weather trends are difficult to pinpoint with certainty, meteorologists are concerned about rising global ocean temperatures.
What do ocean temperatures have to do with South Dakota? More than you’d think, according to Snodgrass.
“We’re seeing more water vapor naturally in the atmosphere, which fuels more thunderstorm activity,” says Snodgrass. “Warmer ocean temperatures also mean that hurricanes will be stronger when they do form.”
As we’ve seen with previous hurricane events like Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria in 2017, hurricanes may wipe out corn crops in southern or eastern states, which will then impact corn prices in South Dakota. Farmers could also see insurance rates go up, which also impacts their bottom line, even though the weather event was thousands of miles away.
“We’re seeing more tornadoes and hail every year,” says Snodgrass. “But that could be because more people are living in the Midwest, we have a better observation network, and better ways of defining those events, too.”
Although South Dakota corn farmers won’t stop scanning the skies and watching the daily weather forecast, seeing the big picture is insightful.