Mid-Year Update: How Weather is Impacting Agriculture in 2019


Now that we’re more than halfway through 2019, it’s a good time to check in on the impact that weather has had on the agriculture industry to date.

A Stormy Spring

The midwest experienced an incredibly wet spring, which led to delays in the planting of corn and soybeans. Dangerous flooding and tornadoes have left farmers looking for strategic ways to work around the weather, but still, the impacts are being felt across the country.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture¬†(USDA), there are 18 states that plant the majority of corn in the country. By the end of May 2018, 90% of corn had been planted in those states. It’s a different story this year, as only 58% had been planted by the end of this May.¬†Similarly, 74% of soybeans had been planted by the end of May 2018, while only 29% had been planted by the end of May 2019.

John Newton, the chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation noted that in 2019, farmers experienced the worst planting day on record since the 1980s, as reported by the Washington Post. Newton said, “Week after week, farmers haven’t been able to get out in the fields to plant corn and soybeans. The frequency of these disasters, I can’t say we’ve experienced anything like this since I’ve been working in agriculture.”

Soaring Summer Heat

Now that we’ve moved into summer, corn and soybean crops are still behind compared to last year. As of July 15, 2019, USDA reports that only 17% of corn is silking, compared to 59% at the same time last year. Likewise, 22% of soybeans are blooming, compared to 62% in July 2018.

While rainy days in the spring prevented farmers from planting some of their crops on time, the heatwave the country is facing leaves farmers concerned that their late-planted crops won’t receive enough rainfall to thrive during periods of high heat and humidity.

USDA reports that “The heat is maintaining stress on summer crops, such as corn and soybeans, which have begun to enter reproduction.” The report also points out that high humidity accompanies the heat, leading to further stress on poorly rooted crops. As a result, we may be dealing with the lowest yield for corn since 2012, according to an Accuweather analysis prediction.

Looking Forward

So, how does this affect the public? While your first thought is that corn may be harder to come across in the grocery store, the effects could reach far beyond that. For example, certain varieties of corn, like silage corn, are used for livestock feed. A shortage of that might then impact other prices, like beef. Ultimately, this shortage could leave corn farmers suffering because of a poor harvest, as well as livestock producers because of increased feed costs, which would eventually trickle down to consumers.

Only time will tell how long the impacts of this extreme weather will be felt. We’ll keep you updated on more developments as they become available.