JESUP, Iowa (NewsNation Now) — With thousands of acres here at Blue Diamond Farming Co., one might think harvest time means big bucks, but not this year — 2020 has been tough on many farmers.
“On July 4th we thought we were gonna raise our best crops ever, we were really expecting a record harvest and that would help offset low prices,” said Ben Riensche.
Riensche is the owner and operator of Blue Diamond Farming Company in the town of Jesup, Iowa. His farm encompasses nearly 18,000 acres, with about a dozen full-time employees.
“Our acreage is about 50% corn, 40% soybeans and 10% wheat.”
Row upon row of crops that, as Riensche said, were set to produce a record harvest, and that’s in spite two months of drought over the summer.
“To top it off we had an Iowa hurricane – this derecho,” said Riensche.
The Derecho Storm hit in August, with catastrophic winds, torrential rain and damaging hail.
Ben says in spite of his losses, he actually fared pretty well, compared to some other farms.
“I’m just not sure the smaller producers are really going to last through the labyrinth of government aid — the accounting the filings, the certifications it’s going to take to qualify, we’ll certainly help every neighbor we can on that I’m just not sure that everybody’s going to make it through that sort of complicated process.
Because here’s the thing: on top of the Derecho and the drought – grain prices are down about $1 per bushel this year compared to last. Meaning profits were going to take a hit regardless.
Ben says oil prices matter because about 25% of the U.S. corn crop is used in fuels – think ethanol. And this year a lot of Americans logged fewer miles on their cars.
“People stopped driving because of covid. They stayed home so ethanol demand fell through the floor,” explained Riensche.
Wil Manweiler has managed a local grain elevator for 20 years
“Usually when you see a lower price the farmers will tend to store more instead of maybe selling it at fall or selling it off the combine they’ll store it expecting the prices to increase,” said Manweiler.
He says because of the Derecho damage to crops, simply having extra grain to store won’t be an option for all farmers this year. However all is not lost: there’s assistance from the federal government and most farmers carry insurance.
“Over 90% of the corn and soybeans are insured in Iowa,” said crop insurance manager Brian Jungling. “It protects the farmers from a drop in revenue which could be a combo of price or yield or both or either or.”
Jungling anticipates more claims this year compared to at least the past five. The extent of the loss won’t be known until harvesting is complete, which will be sometime in October if mother nature cooperates.
So for now, Riensche is trying to prepare for that, while also making sure all of his paperwork is in order. He says he can’t control the weather and he can’t control prices, he just takes each day as it comes.