Day 3 on the road: onward to Ohio

Yesterday (Tuesday) Miss D. and I rose at a leisurely hour and hit the road for the short hop from Indianapolis to Dayton, Ohio.  It’s only a couple of hours’ drive, by far the shortest leg of our journey, so we weren’t stressed for time and could relax and enjoy the sights.

We were glad to see that agriculture in this part of the world is in a somewhat healthier condition than any other state we’ve been through so far this trip.  We began to see fields where planting had been accomplished, although the crops weren’t as tall as they should be by now.  The old saying is that one’s corn crop should be “knee high by the Fourth of July” if one was to get a worthwhile yield from it.  There were a few fields that met that standard, but most did not.  Other fields were still so water-logged that the farmers hadn’t even bothered to plant their seed yet.  If they plant at all this year, it’ll have to be something with a short growing cycle and (probably) a relatively low yield.

For the first time, on the evidence of our own eyes, I’m seriously worried about American farmers and their crops this year.  Based on what we’ve seen so far, I doubt that yields will be even 50% of what they normally are.  If you need staple crops like corn, wheat and the like, they may be in very short supply later this year and early next year.  I’m so concerned by what I’ve seen that I’m going to take steps to lay in some extra vegetables when we get home again.  I may buy a small chest freezer and fill it, or stock up on canned vegetables, or both;  but I have a feeling that, in a few months’ time, the abundance and variety of fruit and vegetables we’ve come to expect in American stores may not be so abundant, or its quality so good, as we’d like.  It may also affect meat supplies, as corn and milo are primary animal feeds.

As for corn used to produce ethanol to supplement gasoline . . . I think that may be a real problem next year.  It may boil down (you should pardon the expression) to a choice between eating our limited supplies of corn, or making ethanol from them, but not both.  If that happens, let’s be very grateful that the US now has oil enough to export it, rather than have to import it.  If we have to, we can dispense with ethanol in our gasoline and use plain oil products instead.  I’m sure “Big Agriculture” will fight that tooth and nail – after all, they make billions of dollars every year in government subsidies and price supports to produce corn for the ethanol program – but if there isn’t enough corn for normal food use, they may not have much choice.

Another worrying thing is barge traffic on the Mississippi and other major rivers.  I’m accustomed to seeing heavy barge traffic during the summer months, what with agricultural chemicals and other support materials going up-river to the farms, and export crops going down-river to harbors and grain terminals.  The flooding caused by all this rain has backed up barge traffic to an astonishing extent.  I know that hundreds of barges are literally tied up on the major rivers, laden with cargoes that simply can’t reach their destinations due to locks that can’t be operated in the flooded conditions.  They, in turn, can’t be used to transport the harvest to waiting ships until they’re unloaded – but if farmers no longer need their cargoes of fertilizers and the like (because it’s now too late to use them), when and where will they be unloaded?

What about the barges’ cargoes?  Can agricultural chemicals be stockpiled until next season?  If so, where?  Do we have the space and/or the facilities to store them safely, out of wind and weather?  Will they still be usable next season?  What about the companies that produce and/or sell them?  If they have no market this year, will they survive until next year?  If their inventories are filled with unused product from 2019, will they buy any more in 2020?  If they don’t, what about the factories that need new orders if they’re to survive?  All that, of course, says nothing about the number of farmers who may face financial difficulties this year.  I think the complications from the present situation may be a lot more complex and difficult than we’ve thought about.

Anyway . . . those thoughts are worrying, to be sure, but there’s nothing we can do about them right now.  Miss D. and I will be in the Dayton area for a few days, so that she can sit down with her parents and others and conduct family business.  I’ll be a spare part for most of the discussions, as they won’t directly involve me, but I’ll provide what support I can.  In my free time (if there is any) I’ll continue to edit a fantasy novel, prepare to publish the third Western novel in my “Ames Archives” series, and prepare the first two in the series for republication in e-book format.  No peace for the wicked!

We took time yesterday afternoon and evening to visit with Cedar Sanderson and her husband Sanford.  They’re friends of long standing, and it was great to see them again.  They took us to a local Korean restaurant, where I was introduced to the delights of bulgogi (complete with warnings against asking for too high a spice level – apparently Korean spicy is as dangerous as “native-strength” Thai!).  Afterwards, we adjourned to their home and sat out on the porch in a delightfully cool evening (much less hot and humid than usual in this part of the world at this time of year – another by-product of the heavy rains so far during spring and early summer).  We were enthusiastically greeted by the family dog, and purred at by the neighbor’s cat, who demanded contributions of petting and scritches.  It was a very pleasant evening.

Some readers have sent invitations to visit with them on our way through their areas.  Thank you all very much;  but we’re on a schedule, and don’t have much latitude to deviate from it.  We’ll have to take the wish for the deed, this time.  Sorry about that.

Updates will continue tomorrow, God willing.

Peter

13 comments

  1. Ten to one odds the government doesn’t ease the ethanol requirements just because of a little thing like insufficient supplies. That would take effort!

  2. If you have time, hop on over to Schmidt’s restaurant in Columbus. Good German food, sausages made on the premises, and creatures puffs to share. Seriously, don’t try to eat a whole cream puff by yourself, especially after a meal.

  3. Here in east Kansas the farmers I know have pretty much given up on the corn crop. I have seen a few fields planted but not many.

  4. In northwestern Illinois where I grew up the rule was corn if you could get into the field early enough, soybeans if you had to wait, and fallow grass as your fallback option. All in service of feed lots raising western beef calves into half tons of hamburger on the hoof. Intersperced with hog farms, easy to pick out when down wind.

  5. “Big Agriculture”

    That would be Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM). Been run by a notorious payoff-artist family for 30 years. And ya’know, it WORKED!!

  6. Hi Peter. I live just north of Dayton; have lived in and around Dayton most of my life. You would probably enjoy the Air Force Museum. If you like Austin, Yellow Springs, where I lived for many years is interesting. It’s like Vermont, except it’s in Ohio. Food: if you like steak, the Pine Club off UD campus is the best. Rated top ten in country by food network. Marion’s Pizza is local favorite, inexpensive. Most things here are somewhat damp at the moment, bikepaths mostly underwater, farm fields no-wake zones. But most people have stored a year or two in silos for that eventuality.
    Regarding your trip south: we recently bought a retirement house in NC. The roads from Dayton to there are mixed. Ohio 35 is not in great shape, but the WVA turnpike is great. The turnpike recently doubled their prices from 2$ to $4 for each booth. Sorry to have missed you, I would have loved to have met you and Dorothy in person; understand schedules, business and meeting total strangers. I am off for a shift in ER. If I can be of assistance, let me know. Jennifer

  7. Watch for meat prices to drop drastically as farmers and ranchers thin herds in anticipation of higher feed prices.

    Then, later this year, the prices will skyrocket.

  8. +1 on the AF Museum. It’s got stuff that’s hard/impossible to see elsewhere, including the Air&Space extension near Dulles. Included in that is the most beautiful airplane ever built (very IMHO of course) — the only XB-70, which is the only plane I’ve seen that makes an SR-71 look slow and dumpy.

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