Too much of a good thing isn't a good thing
"Last year at this time, when we already were watching the U.S. Drought Monitor turn redder and redder every week, we would have danced with joy to see even one of the storms we've had this year. But right now, at this minute, can it please stop?"
I climbed out of my basement office the other day to see a familiar sight. The sky had darkened and rain was pouring down, puddling up on the cement outside the house and creating deep paths through the dirt of the driveway.
Since the middle of April when the first of two late-season blizzards struck, the clouds haven't stopped dripping around here for more than a few days at a time. Each time the roads and fields start to dry up, it rains again.
On one hand, we're all thankful. The drought we dealt with last year was difficult for farmers and ranchers, and many — especially ranchers — will be dealing with the repercussions of the drought for years . We've written numerous stories about people selling down herds because of lack of pasture and forage . Those aren't things that are quickly fixed by a few storms.
Last year at this time, when we already were watching the U.S. Drought Monitor turn redder and redder every week, we would have danced with joy to see even one of the storms we've had this year.
But right now, at this minute, can it please stop?
No one wants to seem ungrateful or hard to please, but we're coming to a point where fields need to be planted — or should already have been planted a month ago. Farmers are looking at the rates they'll get from the prevented planting provision of their crop insurance compared to what they could get if they could just get in the field , and it's not hard to see which one would be the better option. A lot of ranchers are looking at their muddy corrals and trying whatever they can to get the calves to healthier ground, even if it means putting them out on pasture early on grasses that ideally need more time to heal from the stress of last year's drought.
So, when we watch the weather — which we, of course, do a lot — I always have to steal a glance at my husband when the person giving the forecast insists on ending with something along the lines of, "More wet weather, but it's good for the farmers!" The eye rolls are very predictable.
Too dry isn't good. Too wet isn't good. And we know here in the northern Plains that there is no "normal" year for weather. It's always hotter than average or colder than average, drier than average or wetter than average.
In a perfect world, our friends in parts of Montana and South Dakota would get a few more of these storms right now and those of us in North Dakota and Minnesota would get a few less. We'd all get our fields planted and cows turned out to pasture, and then we'd get just the right amount of moisture through the rest of the growing season. And it would turn off in time for a quick, pleasant harvest, and calves could be weaned in conditions that are neither too wet nor too dry and dusty.
Nothing will ever be perfect, so we'll keep taking what we get. We don't have a lot of choice in the matter anyway.
So, if you hear a farmer or rancher complaining about the weather, please don't think that it's impossible to please them. Just know that the stresses caused by too much of a good thing can be pretty much just as hard as not enough of that same thing.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.