Open Letter: Scobey Harvest Woes
There was a late Spring freeze, followed by an early Fall snowstorm. It has been a rough year for Montana farmers, that is for sure. But the weather is more than just an irritant, and a barrier to getting work done during planting and the harvest- it is having real-world impacts on the bottom line for family farmers across the state.
We were broadcasting live during The Montana Farm Bureau's annual convention in Billings recently. Afterwards, I heard from a great farmer in Northeastern Montana named Terry Farver. Terry wanted me to get this letter into the hands of the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.
He also said it was okay if I shared his open letter about the "Scobey Harvest Woes." His full letter is posted below.
To Whom It May Concern October 30,2019
RE: 2019 Northeast Montana Durum/Wheat Crop
by Terry Farver
I know you have been hearing that northeast Montana has been having a real difficult time getting our crops cut and into the bin, what I’m afraid you are not hearing is that the weather has degraded the quality of the grain to the point of feed quality. I know at my rain gauge, we have had over 8.5” since harvest started. There are few crops that can keep their quality through that kind of weather. Every crop that we grow is sold on quality, and when that is lost, so is the value. It hurts the family farmer and 'their rural communities"
I’ve been listening to and visiting with a lot of our local farmers and am hearing about all the wrecks that are happening in their spring wheat, durum, lentil, chickpea, and canola crops that are grown in Northeast Montana. We all carry Federal Crop Insurance, but there is no quality adjustment coverage for any of these crops, it only covers how many bushels are produced on each acre. With the high amount of rain we’ve received, our yields are at record high levels, but the quality is at record low levels. So, unless a producer was hailed out, there won’t be any coverage through Federal Crop Insurance.
After hearing all these horror stories, I started calling producers and asking how many bushels of spring wheat and durum that each producer feels will be sold as feed grain rather than top quality grain. The bushels and dollars lost is quite staggering. The hardest part about this year is that we just came off two years of drought, so when it started to rain and the crops were so good, we all thought this crop might heal up some of the economic challenges we’ve been facing from the past two years of drought. Personally, every piece of equipment I depend on to do my work on the farm and ranch, is worn out. They have very high hours or high acre counts on them and are starting to break down, in the field, on a regular basis, costing me valuable time and money. And many other producers are telling me the same thing, there isn’t enough money to upgrade equipment.
I know there is talk of trying to get a disaster declaration put in place for our northeast counties, which would make us all eligible for low interest government loans, but quite frankly, we don’t need more debt; can’t afford more debt. We all need some type of disaster payment to help us move forward. I hear that the MFP program is being suspended, maybe some of that $14 billion dollars that was allocated can be used to help us and all the farmers that are suffering in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
Here is a list of producers I’ve polled and figured out approximate losses. I’m using current prices of commodities, which can change daily. As I draft this letter, the current prices are as follow: Spring wheat, $5.10 for #1, $3.00 for feed, and Durum, $7.50 for #1, $2.90 for feed
(NOTE: Terry compiled a list of producers and the amount of losses they are anticipating. We are not including the names here at his request, and in the interest of privacy)
So, to wrap up this love letter on how wonderful this harvest year has been, I got some more staggering numbers from the Durum buyer I use. I was taking a load of durum up to New Century Ag in Westby, MT, and asked them what they were estimating on durum production in their service area. They consider 100 miles in any direction, except Canada, their service territory. They estimate that there are 25 to 30 million bushels of durum produced in their service area. Of that, they estimate 80% of it will be feed quality durum. That means there are 20 million bushels of feed durum in this little corner of the country worth a lost value to the area farmers of $92,000,000.
My little town of Scobey, MT is already suffering. I guarantee that every little town in this corner of the world is going to suffer, and some of the businesses will die. I’m a very independent person and don’t generally like to ask for help, especially from the government, but if I/we don’t get help up here the changes will be life altering. Bankers, store owners, employees in all these small towns will be devastated!
Terry Farver, Scobey, MT