Years such as 2012 tend to leave a question or two on everyone's
mind as they come to a close. What if the next year is dry as well,
or even drier than the previous season? How will this affect the
farmers and the businessmen who make a living through the
Here in Logan County, there are a multitude
of people who can provide some insight into these questions. One of
them is Rick Harbarger, an employee of Logan County Bank and a
farmer as well.
Harbarger farms 650 acres, primarily corn, between Elkhart and
Mount Pulaski. He has been farming since 1977.
Harbarger echoes other farmers in Logan County, saying that the
drought of 2012 definitely reminds him of the drought of 1988.
However, 1988 was not simply a difficult year due to the drought.
"Prices tanked in the '80s," said Harbarger. The lack of a high
price for crop payout, combined with the lower yields due to the dry
season, made the late 1980s very tough for farmers.
Comparing with the harvest of 2012, Harbarger says that farmers
and agricultural businessmen still ended the year in relatively good
financial shape due to the higher price of crops, especially corn.
The difference is rather large. In the 1988-1989 marketing year,
corn sold for an average of $2.54 per bushel. Recent figures have
placed corn selling around $7 per bushel.
Harbarger said that while the 1990s also proved to be challenging
due to low prices, in recent years, prices have continued to rise.
"You kind of have to ask, 'How high can it go?'" said Harbarger.
Another area of farming that could be affected by such a dry
season is related to land. In recent months, prices of land have
increased, leading to significantly higher sale figures per acre.
For example, in October of 2012, land was being sold in some areas
of Illinois for nearly $15,000. In contrast, the average price
before that was between $8,000 and $9,000.
After the drought of 2012, it is not hard to imagine that some
farmers may want to sell their land, especially if it could be sold
for such a high price. A new question arises then: What have land
Harbarger says that from what he has seen so far, the amount of
land that has been sold really hasn't changed that much from
previous years. While land prices have increased, it is not
necessarily connected to drought conditions.
"Farmers still did OK this year because their crop rates were
locked in so high," said Harbarger.
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Harbarger also says that from a banker's perspective, he
personally has not really experienced a decrease in agricultural
loans. The amount of loans he has worked with in the last few months
has not really changed.
"I always look for the chance to help some new farmer get
started," says Harbarger.
Harbarger works with the USDA and new farmers to purchase the
land they will need to get started on their own farms. He does not
think new farmers have been dissuaded by the drought of last year.
Furthermore, the loans given to farmers can still be repaid with
higher crop prices and crop insurance payoffs.
As to the drought itself, Harbarger, like other farmers, says the
weather works in a cycle. While the next season may come with dry
conditions once again, the farmers of Logan County will not let a
dry spell keep them down.
In the end, while years like 2012 do rear up now and again, for
people like Harbarger, the job still remains, as he put it, "hard
work and a lot of fun."
[By DEREK HURLEY]