Farmers planning for anything after 2012 drought

Farmers are paying close attention to weather forecasts for the upcoming growing season.
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With planting season fast approaching, Indiana farmers are keeping a close eye on the weather pattern.

After last summer's drought, they are trying to plan for all contingencies - a return to normal moisture levels as well as considering drought conditions the "new normal."

Wayne McCutchan has farmed land in Montgomery County for the last 38 years. He says the current weather pattern that led to one of the worst droughts in American history last year is cyclical.

"(In) 2012 it just didn't rain at all and a lot of people said it was the worst one in 100 years, so what we had here, we just didn't have much," McCutchan said.

Now, some experts are predicting farmers should brace for another round of hot and dry conditions.

Planting season starts in mid-April for McCutchan and his two sons, who farm 7,000 acres. Half of that is soybeans and the other half is corn. Normally, that will yield 175 bushels an acre. Last year, McCutchan says he was lucky to get 80 bushels an acre.

"We got some good rains with the hurricane in late August. Our soil moisture is a little below for this time of year, but it's not bad. We are doing okay," he said.

Conditions have improved in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois for now, but McCutchan says the weather isn't the only thing that is cyclical.

"The business is a little different. Most people (who) are in business expect to make a profit every year. Farmers really can't, because of the weather. It's all weather dependent," he said. "Some years you make really good money and some years you lose money. Farming, you are in for the long haul."

Prior to last year, McCutchan says he thought the drought of 1988 was the worst he had ever seen, but now he's not so sure. But there is one big difference from 25 years ago.

"The best thing about this year that we did not have back in 1988 was crop insurance. That's been a good thing for farmers, crop insurance," he said.

It takes some of the risk out of it, but not all.

The federal government paid out $14 billion to farmers for 2012 crops. That figure is still going up and doesn't count any potential problems this year.