Year of a Midwest Farmer

By Mark Edge

Director, WEMA Partnership

We all make choices every day, but it’s rare that we’re faced with a single decision that will determine our success for an entire year. If you’re a farmer, you’re faced with more than 40 such decisions every year – not to mention the curveballs thrown by Mother Nature.

Make the right choices, and you’re more likely to have a bountiful harvest. Make the wrong choice at any point, and you could dramatically reduce your chances for success. Welcome to the year of a farmer.

Imagine you’re a farmer in the Midwestern United States. Before you can think about putting seeds in the ground there are many decisions that need to be made. First you must decide on the type of seed to plant. With hundreds of options to choose from, you must determine what characteristics are likely to work best for the environment in which you are farming.

The decision can only be made after you extensively evaluate test plot data and weather patterns from the prior year, consult with farmers who farm around you and consider the geographic location of your farm. Monsanto and others in the agriculture industry work together every day to help you make informed choices and to manage all of the variables that might come over a planting season.

Once you’ve chosen your seed variety, planting must occur during a very specific time period in order to maximize the chances of a strong harvest.

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But what happens if it rains during this short planting window? If wet and rainy conditions cause you to miss a planting period, even by a couple of days, you could be forced to switch to a seed variety that matures faster. If rainy conditions cause you to miss a planting season by a matter of weeks, you might be forced to switch to an entirely different crop. Instead of planting corn, you could need to switch to soybeans that season.

You’ve done the math. In 2015, you must harvest 190 bushels of corn and sell them for $4.12 to simply break even. If you do not meet this goal, you are losing money and are at risk of not receiving insurance the next year.

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Farming is an extremely challenging profession. The men and women who grow our food are faced with challenges every day that are unpredictable and out of their control. Today’s seeds have improved traits that help to produce better harvests despite the variables farmers may face during the year. Through collaboration and the help of others, we’re working to help farmers produce enough food to feed our growing population.

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