Corn farmers are just starting to harvest their corn crop and it is as expected: not good. The drought and hot summer took an expensive toll on corn. Some farmers in our area will harvest less than half of what they would during a normal year.
"This is the worst corn I have ever shelled in my life," says lifelong farmer, Eric Berger, "I've never been in anything this bad."
Berger, 61, has been farming since he could walk.
Berger says on a normal year he harvests about 250 bushel of corn per acre on his fields near Wakarusa. This year he is only getting about a fifth of that.
"You go on," says Berger, "and hopefully next year it is better. That is what it amounts to."
Chad Zahner farms nearby. He is just starting to see the damage in his fields as he and his family take the combines out this week. Zahner pulled several cobs off the stalks to show us what kind of damage they are seeing.
A normal corn cob is about 7 inches long, covered consistently in deep yellow kernals. But the cobs Zahner pulled from his stalks were tiny -- only about 2 to 3 inches long. The kernals were inconsistent and there was some mold starting to show.
"That is what we got," says Zahner as he pulls more small cobs of the stalks, "it didn't pollinate."
Hot weather and no rain during June and July, a crucial time for the crops, threw pollination off.
"There is just nubin here and a nubin here," says Zahner as he examines stalk after stalk, "there is nothing here, or here, or here."
"So out of 10 plants there are 3 (with ears of corn). That is what you got," says Zahner.
Some farmers estimate they will lose more than $500 per acre -- a lot of money when you are talking about thousands of acres of corn.
Still, farmers like Zahner and Berger are not giving up.
"This is what I intend to do until they bury me, and that is the way it goes," says Berger.
They are all just hoping for better luck next year.
Farmers who farm seed corn are doing okay as most irrigated. They started harvesting their crops weeks ago.
But farmers like Zahner and Berger grow commercial feed corn. A lot of commercial corn farmers don't irrigate. Their crops are turned into cattle feed, food and gasoline -- which means the prices of those items are expected to go up.