How has the summer's weather affected farmers' harvest?

Iowa's crops could use some rain after a hot, dry end to August.

Even though this summer hasn't been nearly as detrimental to Iowa's corn and soybean farmers as last year's drought, the weather has still made for a less than perfect season. Farmers have always been and always will be at the mercy of mother nature and this year's summer has been a rollercoaster -- starting off with a rainy and chilly spring that resulted in late planting.

"After we got planted, then it started getting drier and drier, as I'm sure everybody realizes," said Pat Kessell, of Fairfield's Farm Bureau Financial Services. "The saving grace this year - last year it was really, really hot in August - and this year, we all remember the first part of August being cool, it was unseasonably cool. And I really think that's been a positive thing for the corn crop."

Kessell said he works with the majority of farmers in Southeast Iowa for crop insurance, a risk-management tool for farmers that can prove extremely beneficial when the weather isn't favorable to a good yield. A price is set in March for fall futures and the yield is different for each farmer depending on their productivity over a ten-year period. Each farmer can buy a percentage of that product history for a guarantee.

As for soybeans, their yield largely depends on the weather in August, since the crop is planted after corn. Soybean farmers are looking to the skies this September, because after the hot and dry end to August, they really need the rain.

"I've been out and driving around and looking at different fields and the actual plant looks pretty good and they're forming the pods and the beans, but if you feel the pods, the beans inside are pretty small," Kessell said. "So we need the rain to make the pods fill out."

The perfect year would entail a warm spring, moderate rainfall and warm, but not hot, July and August. It's been a long time since Iowa farmers have seen that perfect season, but they are still holding out hope that this one will end well-- all depending on precipitation.

"Just rain coming as needed, whatever that means, is what makes a perfect year and it's been lots of years since we've had a perfect year," Kessell said.

As they say, there's always next year.