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Harvest from Hell

By Paul Kuntz

Several of my clients have described the past few months as a harvest from hell. Perhaps we are speaking incorrectly because this description can lead to the assumption that harvest is over. For most of my clients, harvest will only be over in the spring. Provincial crop reports are indicating about 8 million acres are still unharvested throughout the Prairies. So, as challenging as this harvest has been, it is not over.

There are a lot of producers out there that have never had crop out over winter and 2019 will be the first time. Other producers have had crop out once or twice, but it has been many years since it happened. There will also be a group of farmers who have experienced spring harvesting many times.

Regardless of your experience in unharvested acres, it is important to keep this part of your farming year in perspective. 

First let’s look at the crop that is left out there. Is it a cereal or an oilseed? Is it swathed or standing?  Do you have a little snow or a lot of snow? The answer to these questions will help determine if you can get the crop off before the spring. Reach out to any producers who have experience in this area. Use social media, friends and family to get in touch with anyone who has harvested very late into the fall or winter. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Maybe you can get a few acres off before spring.

You need to determine the financial implications of the crop being out. Calculate the revenue you will have from the grain you did harvest. Prepare a mini cash flow to see what cash is going out and what cash can come in. If there will be cash shortages, talk to your bank about bridging that gap. Talk to your creditors and let them know your situation. Allow them to be part of the solution.

If you have purchased crop insurance, inquire if they will write off the crop. 

This will expedite your claim. If the cash advance program comes out with an unharvested crop advance, take advantage of it. 

Next you need to focus on a plan for the spring. How will the unharvested crop affect your seeding? What crops are to be seeded on those acres?  Can you begin seeding other acres first? Will you have enough grain trucks and augers to seed and harvest at the same time? Can you employ any custom harvesters or neighbours to assist you? Can you seed additional shorter season crops in case your seeding gets delayed?

Going through a list of such questions may help you create a path through this situation. The most important aspect of this is to know you will get through it. You will get those acres harvested. You will get the crop seeded next spring. You are not in unchartered waters.  You are not alone. 

If you feel overwhelmed by the task, you may want to reach out for some professional help. You need to look after yourself first. The Do More Agriculture Foundation has many resources and they are specific for your area listed. Just go to its website, domore.ag/resources, and you will see a host of places that you can reach out.    

When you are in the midst of a crisis it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. A challenging harvest with crop left out is just one of the many obstacles you will have overcome in the past. There have been more successes on your farm than failures in the past. Going forward there will be many more triumphs than defeats. It is difficult to see the positives when you are overcome with stress. 

It is important to realize you will overcome this challenge the same way you have overcome other challenges in the past. Put the situation in perspective with all you have accomplished. Your harvest issues will seem small compared to what you have achieved to this point in your farming career. 

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