2020 has started off very similar to those of recent years past. Celebrate the new year with family and friends. After that, it's a combination of the North Dakota State University Extension Lake Region Roundup and a trip to Frisco, Texas.
This year, the roundup meeting in Devils Lake, N.D., was first and, as in previous years, seemed very well attended for both days. Sessions are wide-ranging covering agronomy, markets, livestock, and economics.
The day after the roundup, I was able to board a plane with family and friends head down to what has become an annual trip to Texas to watch our favorite football team, the NDSU Bison, compete for another national championship. The trip is a simple break from our winter season and great time to see friends we only see annually in Texas, like Ken.
Ken is a farmer friend on the Minnesota side I've known over the years and we catch up on our kids, review the farming season, and provide what we think the outcome will be on gameday. Thankfully, like in years past, we had the same outcome and again Bison Nation got to celebrate another victory.
But back on the farming and consulting front, January has been quite different.
Corn: Corn is scattered amongst the region with many acres standing in the field. Even last week, some farms were trying to harvest still breaking through unfrozen ground discovering very difficult conditions.
Nitrogen: The nitrogen needs for the spring of 2020 will be unlike any of recent memory. There have been years where fall application was low in our region, but not one where it was zero acres. The other issue is the lack of fall tillage creating a spring application of anhydrous more difficult. Our needs of nitrogen are still high but it remains a question of how much anhydrous will get used and can the urea supply chain meet our needs. It's a serious concern as we just faced urea shortage issues just this past spring and farms had to wait two to three days for nitrogen application at times. We did get through it though. Between wholesale distribution, retail facilities, and equipment, the demands can be met, yet we face a greater challenge than previously.
Planning: Farmers realize what we are up against currently. Some crops still show favorable profit margins while others are quite narrow. The need for planning ahead has increased greatly between December and now January. We are looking at budgets, choosing crop options and rotations, and identifying our fertilizer ton needs. This has been appreciated on all fronts. Retailers certainly like to have a heads up on what the 2020 tons will be.
I enjoy getting the plans laid out in January and early February so we can focus time in March-April on other agronomy issues. Also, getting a good plan in place now allows makes it easier to identify what changes we may need to make in spring if needed.
Snow: There is plenty of snow everywhere in the region and as our local weather experts tell us, that is nothing new, though it certainly feels like it. I recently have attended meetings in Jamestown, N.D., and Brookings, S.D. In those travels, you notice two things, snow and corn. It's white all over.
That is a reminder of the importance of planning ahead, know what the challenges will be, and have an audible ready in your farm playbook so you can achieve a victory similar to calling a fake field goal in the national championship game and bringing the trophy home.