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Late harvest brings extra challenges

If you're even peripherally involved with Upper Midwest agriculture, you know that harvest will be late this year. The wet cold, spring delayed planting, and so the crop naturally will be harvested later, too.

Some farmers' crops are five to 15 days behind normal maturity, some even more. Whatever the number of days, ag producers, grain elevator employees and others involved in harvest face special challenges this year.

High on the list is the need for a cooperative fall. Though always important, favorable conditions in September and October are essential this year. Avoiding an early killing frost is crucial. We'll leave it to Mother Nature.

The late harvest also increases the need for all of us in ag to be extra patient and understanding. There will be additional stress in an always stressful time, and we need to respond accordingly.

The challenging fall may tempt hands-on, front-line agriculturalists to shortchange their mental and emotional needs or to neglect family.

We understand the importance of bringing in the crop, but we also know that highly stressed, working-long-hours agriculturalists need to take care of themselves, too. Finishing harvest is crucial; so is your health and your family. There will be difficult decisions and a delicate balancing act ahead.

And we stress that anyone feeling extreme stress or depression needs to seek out a friend, relative, clergy member or mental health provider. Don't hesitate to use a special telephone mental health hotline. Surely in 2019 there's no shame in receiving help — and sooner is always better than later.

Above all else, focus on farm safety. Yes, we know everyone in production ag understands its importance already. But we're going to sermonize on it nonetheless.

The danger of accidents and injury is especially great when we're tired and in a hurry — conditions that most certainly will occur during the stressful harvest ahead. Remind yourself repeatedly every day to remain careful and prudent. And hammer home safety's importance to employees and co-workers, especially seniors and teens who join the workforce in the harvest.

Finishing harvest in a challenging year is extremely important. But it's not nearly as important as remaining mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.

Good luck with harvest. Most of all, take care of yourself and the people around you.