Published May 1, 2004 | May 2004 issue
The state's soybean farmers have had a hectic year of ups and downs, and the ride could get rougher from here.
Last year's harvest was the lowest in 10 years, thanks to drought and aphid infestations. That low yield, along with severe damage to South American soybean crops, helped tighten supply.
That tightening, combined with increased demand by China, led to skyrocketing prices. Recently, prices have hovered around $9 per bushel, a level rarely seen, and they don't show much sign of dropping soon. So for most, it is a great time to be a soybean farmer.
However, that optimism has been tempered by looming fears of a very destructive fungus: Asian soybean rust. It has already caused crop destruction in Africa and Asia and a shrunken South American crop last year.
Farmers are worried it may soon make its way up from the tropics. Left untreated, rust can destroy 90 percent of a crop. But even with fungicide, the fungus still decreases yields, and the cost of fungicide eats into profits.
Experts and farmers are asking the government to ease on fungicide application restrictions.