COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — James Harlan has been farming corn and soybeans for as long as he can remember.
“We’ve been in business here since 1931,” he said. “I am the fourth generation to farm on this land.”
But lately, the family business has been a little tougher. Heat and drought have seriously impacted his crops and farmers’ around the state.
“You can see this ear is very, very small. Not much quality to it, whatsoever,” Harlan said, holding a roughly 5-inch ear of corn. “Compared to last year’s yield, that’s going to be about a 75-80 percent reduction in quality.”
The average yield for Maury County is about 170 corn bushels per acre. This year though, even half of that would be a success.
“This year, we’re lucky if we’re going to see 40,” Harlan said. “In some fields, it may be zero.”
A bad crop for farmers is bad news for consumers. If it’s expensive on their end, then it’ll be expensive on your shelves, too.
“I think the average person needs to better understand that sometimes these weather disasters are going to impact them,” said Lee Maddox, communications director for the Tennessee Farm Bureau.
Last week, you might have seen the Tennessee Farmers Co-Op tweet “pray for rain.”
Since there are no heat-related government subsidies available, that’s about all they can do besides have crop insurance.
“When you do have a failed crop, you’ve got a backup there that can help you,” Maddox said.
Harlan said he does indeed have crop insurance, but it isn’t 100% – no one’s is, since the market price is different from the selling price for each farm.
Harlan’s is only 70%.
“People should think about if 30 percent of their paycheck suddenly got cut,” he said.
But even through it all, the knowledge that he’s feeding his community is worth it to Harlan.
“We are producing a product that is being eventually consumed at their dinner table,” he said.
It’s enough to keep him going every single day.