Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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.