Farmers across the Great Plains were scrambling to get their crops out of the fields earier this week before the potentially record-setting snowfall began Thursday.
“We were out Monday and Tuesday, and we were hoping to get out Wednesday but we got rain that day,” said Tysen Rosenau, a corn and soybean grower in Carrington, N.D. “Then the snow hit. I got about a third of [my crop] out. Some guys got a lot less.”
With more than a foot of snow blanketing parts of the parts of North and South Dakota and surrounding states, farmers are predicted to lose much of their soy and corn harvests. Unharvested cereal crops, like wheat and barley, are lost. And regional potato and sugar beet harvests are also in jeopardy.
“We’re really looking at a tough situation,” said Daryl Lies, the president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.
The unseasonable blizzard comes after an already poor growing year.
Historically heavy rains and flooding pummeled the Midwest and Great Plains in the spring. Many farmers were prevented from planting entirely, and of those who did planted late in the season. That meant the crops had to be harvested later than normal.
Then, before harvest could begin this fall, historic rain and flooding returned to the Great Plains.
“Everybody has been too wet,” said Scott Vanderwal, a corn and soy grower in Volga, S.D., Dakota who serves as the South Dakota Farm Bureau president. “It’s harvest time and the weather is not cooperating. We can’t get out there.”
As of Monday, only 15 percent of the nation’s corn and 14 percent of the soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In addition to the planted crops, the region’s livestock face possible food shortages.
“Cattle are out in their pastures yet,” said Lies, who also is a livestock producer. “When you get all that wet snow, it buries the grass and makes it hard for the cows to get to it. There are guys who are going to have to try and get hay out to feed them.”
This is a tall order during a blizzard, when it is easy to get lost or stuck in the snow, Lies said. What’s more, hay is in short supply across much of the Great Plains because the unusually wet spring and fall have prevented many farmers from planting and harvesting that, as well.
The North Dakota Department of Agriculture initiated a “hay hotline” Wednesday, in preparation for the storm.
“We hope that producers were able to move cattle back home or to areas with protection,” Doug Goehring, North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner, said in a statement. “The hay hotline is still available for those needing more hay or needing hay transported. We recognize it’s been tough to put forage up and get it hauled this year.”