The Gamble of Being a Farmer

The Nebraska Outbacks are pitching in today to deliver chickens for Seifer Farms. Our route will take us east toward Lexington, south to Arapahoe, then west to McCook, and finally back north to North Platte and home. I'm hoping to get some great shots of the wheat harvest which is a little slow in our part of the world, but should be in full swing, or even perhaps nearly completed further south.

However, I also want to share with you an article that appeared on the North Platte Bulletin website yesterday. We will be driving through the heart of the area it is discussing, so some of the pictures may show things less fun than a busy and productive wheat harvest.

Experts say storms bring $10 million damage
by Frank Graham (North Platte Bulletin) - 7/15/2010

An estimated 60,000 acres of mostly corn and beans were destroyed or damaged in eastern Lincoln County and western Dawson County by two storms that ripped through the area.

Steve Johnson of the Home Agency in Gothenburg, estimated more than $10 million in damage from two storms – one on Saturday and another on Sunday.

Johnson said wind gusts in the area Sunday reached 90 mph.

Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Jim Nitz said the National Weather Service reported a vortex of a tornado that appeared on their radar screen but was unsure if it touched down.

Johnson said major damage was caused by hail embedded in the storms. “Hail coming at that speed is like a bullet,” Johnson said. The hail broke corn shafts in half and laid entire fields of stalks on the ground.

Johnson said there is so much damage over such a wide area that it would take months to evaluate it all. “We have more than 400 farms to inspect,” Johnson said. “It’s a huge economic loss to our area.” Johnson said many fields of corn suffered partial damage but some of that damage won’t even be determined until near harvest. He said some corn would likely suffer stock rot, ears with smut or mold and other stalks that would be more susceptible to disease.

To better visualize the situation, 60,000 acres is the equivalent of nearly 100 square miles. – Editor

So those storms happened a week ago today, but here's an article that also appeared yesterday, this time on the National Weather Service website:

Large Hail Pummels Parts of Southwestern Nebraska
July 15th, 2010

Scattered thunderstorms developed late Thursday afternoon into Thursday evening - on July 15th. These storms produced some large hail over parts of southwestern Nebraska. The first report came in at 613 PM CDT (513 PM MDT) of one inch diameter hail from 8 miles southwest of Lewellen in Garden County. By 622 PM CDT (522 PM MDT) the hail had increased to one and a half inches at the same location. The largest hail reported, the size of golf balls at 1.75 inches in diameter, occurred 9 miles northwest of Big Springs and 10 miles south of Lewellen, in Deuel County.

This is an entirely different area of the country, and the storm may not have been quite as widespread, but golf ball size hail can cause significant damage.

There are those who will minimize the impact of the situation by pointing that out the farmers likely had hail insurance, and I sincerely hope they did. However, that does nothing for the rest of the community who makes their living by suppling goods and services to farmers growing and harvesting bountiful crops, nor for the elevators and shippers who make their living sending those crops on down the road.

Hopefully I'll have some visual reporting for you after todays trip.

Thanks for stopping by. If you are enjoying any sustenance with your coffee this morning, thank a farmer!


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