Rainy forecast puts harvest season on hold

LINCOLN, Neb. - Normally, the months of September, October and November are very busy for Nebraska farmers. However, with the rain we've had and the rain that is in the forecast, farmers have to wait before they can harvest their crops.

"It's very frustrating, but we can't do a darn thing about it," said Tom Peterson, a third generation farmer. "You just have to sit back and see what Mother Nature deals you."

Of course, Peterson said, there are plenty of things he can be doing while he waits out the rain.

"You just got all the normal chores, fences, things like that," Peterson said. "They're little things like that that kinda keep you busy, but you're not doing what you wanna do yet."

In many cases, farmers started to harvest their crops in the middle of September, but had to put those plans on hold when the rain came at the beginning of October.

"Once you get going, you want to keep going," Peterson said. "This stop and start is hard. It just makes it feel so slow."

While farmers are feeling the strain right now, economists say if the rain doesn't let up, consumers could feel the strain very soon.

"We've got a pretty good crop harvest sitting out there," said Jay Rempe, a senior economist with Nebraska Farm Bureau. "If farmers are unable to get it in, eventually it could start looking at some higher commodity prices. Corn goes into cattle, so your meat prices will be higher. And soybeans are in a lot of products. So those will go up too."

But you won't just feel the pinch at the grocery store.

"Farmers, this is their year's income that they're trying to bring in right now," Rempe said. "If they're not able to harvest it and eventually sell it, then that could affect Nebraska's whole economy as well. We're very dependent on the success of agriculture in this state."

Economists say they won't know how much the rain impacts this years crop, originally predicted to be one of the biggest yields ever, until the rain stops and farmers can get going.

"You just go until it's done," Peterson said. "Usually it's late October, but that won't happen this year. Sometimes it's Thanksgiving, sometimes it's Christmas. I know we've used the combine in January before. And I know several guys who have had to wait until Spring to harvest."

Once the rain stops, farmers still have to wait for the ground to dry out before they can get to work.

Farmers say the heavy rain and the wetness of the ground will impact the way they harvest their crops as well. Chances are, Peterson said, they'll have to load crops on trucks on roads as opposed to in the fields. That means drivers need to keep an eye out as they drive on county roads.