Jamie Beyer and Rodd Beyer

Jamie Beyer and Rodd Beyer check the planter singulation following soybean seeding. Photo by Andrea Johnson.

ROSHOLT, S.D. – Like thousands of farmers, the Beyer Farm crew was doing what they loved most. They were preparing the land and planting the 2019 seed to raise crops for the world.

Employee Kip Norton ran the planter while Paul Sprengeler kept the tillage tractor going. The fertilizer tender was running, as well as the sprayer applying pre-emerge chemicals.

Rodd Beyer managed operations.

“A large part of my job right now is always making sure of where we are going to next,” said Rodd. “You might be thinking two days ahead of time what field is going to be dry.”

As of May 13, the Beyers had 60 percent of the soybeans planted with two days left to go, 20 percent of the corn planted with five days left and a half-day of sugarbeets to plant.

“We are expecting rain on Friday (May 17) – so eight days of planting and four days to do it,” said Jamie. Along with helping on the farm, working for the watershed and advocating for farmers through the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, Jamie took care of their three girls, Aspen, 13, Paige, 11, and Josie, 10.

As she thought about the future and the girls and the farm, recent increases in tariffs with China had her furious – just like farmers across the U.S. who are trying to make a living.

“Today I am just flat-out mad. I am mad that there isn't a plan. I am mad that our government ag agencies are full of very smart people, and I am mad that their policy recommendations are not making their way to the White House,” she said. “I am mad that family farms all across Minnesota and the U.S. are getting to work, and I want our paid legislators to do the same. I want them to stop showboating and get to work!”

With low commodity prices, farm families are now gambling that the risks of this growing season will be worth it – that somehow China or some country will need U.S. No. 2 corn or high quality soybeans to produce feed, fuel or food.

In the meantime, farm families are looking for whatever methods they can to save money and hopefully make some to at least breakeven – whether that is from value-added sales, off-farm income, or some low input costs.

For about 10 years, the Beyers have raised seed soybeans as a form of value added agriculture. This is the first year they have planted Enlist soybeans, with tolerance to a new 2,4-D and a .09 maturity. When they produce a clean crop that is delivered to the seed company, they’ll receive a premium.

The Beyers found another way to save money and improve their crops too. After planting soybeans for many years at 175,000 seeds per acre, the Beyer crew now plants variable-rate populations of 80,000-180,000 seeds per acre for an average of 125,000 seeds per acre on 22-inch rows.

“We’ve been planting one-third less seed and having the same or a better crop,” said Rodd. “It’s probably a better crop because we don’t have the disease in the good areas and just a little white mold.”

The Beyers also found they can reduce weather risk and get by with less machinery by spreading out their farm fields that run from just a few miles in South Dakota to fields east of the home farm near Tintah, Minn. The rolling hills near Rosholt, S.D., dry out earlier and are ready for planting before the heavy soils to the east are ready to plant. Like custom operations, the Beyers move their equipment to fields as conditions become ready.

There are more strategies farmers are using too – like building more storage.

“We did decide to build more storage bins,” Jamie added. “It is a really difficult decision, and it would be made easier if we had more assurance that trade deals would be secured, but we are looking at our business in the long term and having more on-farm storage makes us a little less beholden to unpredictable market forces.”