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Drought worries linger over tractor ride

By Staff | Jul 21, 2012

A sea of green with flecks of red adorned the Emmet County Fairgrounds Friday during the noon stopover of the North Iowa Broadcasting tractor ride. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

If you’re on a tractor ride, chances are pretty good that you’re a farmer. Or are related to a farmer. Or know a farmer.

Those who can remember back in the day might remember their Weekly Readers – remember those? And remember one of the big feature stories every year was how many people each farmer fed. For a while it was 24, then 30-some. Then 40.

Today, it’s 98.

That’s 98 people for which every farmer is responsible – whether it’s a truck farm, row crops or marketing feed grains. Every farmer knows that.

Maybe that’s why thoughts of drought drive home more with farmers these days than they used to.

During the North Iowa Broadcasting tractor ride that made its way through Emmet County Friday, thoughts – and talk – of drought were uppermost on a lot of the riders’ minds. And that’s even when everyone was on a ride to “get away from it all.”

“I’m a farmer. I’m still farming,” said Wayne Rietema of Kanawa, a town about 11 miles south of Britt.

Rietema was driving his 1959 International 340 – one of 5,000 made. In addition to the International that he’s had for three years now, Rietema has an International Super M and a John Deere 630.

Raised with Farmalls, Rietema farms with John Deeres. He has a particular fondness for his Super M that his father bought new in 1954.

While he enjoys the friends he makes on tractor rides, talk inevitably turns to how the crops are doing.

In a lot of places, they aren’t doing well at all.

But here in Emmet County, though, we might be lucky – at least for a little bit yet.

“The best crops we’ve seen are out of Estherville this morning,” said Rietema. As he talks drought, though, Rietema sees it as a double-edged coin.

While he’s concerned about being able to fill contracts, Thursday he sold 5,000 bushels of corn for $8.05 a bushel. Two weeks ago, he sold some beans for $16.25.

Where this whole drought thing is going, though, is anybody’s guess.

“The consuming public is really going to suffer down the line here,” said Rietema, noting that a lot of seed corn is going to have to come from out of Brazil or maybe Hawaii. And that’s coming from someone who was a Pioneer dealer for 18 years.

“There’s not going to be enough seed corn to go around,” Rietema said.

J.C. (Jan) Dawald, formerly from Estherville and now Northwood, was driving a 1954 Allis-Chalmers WD 45. The Allis was bought new by Tom Mooney in 1955 and sat in a field for 15 years before Dawald bought it in 2005.

So what’s all new?

“All but the engine,” said Dawald who’s working on a WC now on which the engine, paint and tires each cost as much as what the tractor’s worth. And Dawald’s been working on some old cars too. “These (tractors) are a lot more fun,” Dawald admitted.

Like Rietema, Dawald sees a lot of problems with the current drought.

“It’s a major concern,” said Dawald, agreeing though with Rietema that the corn looked good around Emmet County.