Stretching across the plains of north-western Iowa for acre after acre is a blur of brittle, burned corn. Only occasionally does a ribbon of green cut through a field. The ground is powder dry, and the slightest breeze scatters dust.
It's early September, and this is the impact of a drought which began to affect the area in July. In his office at the Sioux City Production Credit Association, president H. Edward Gates expresses concern about the lack of rainfall, which he estimates to be 35 to 40 percent below normal. "What happens to agriculture here is going to affect virtually all business," he predicts. "The drought is impacting adversely on almost all our members except for a few who are 100 percent under irrigation," he adds. One of 435 PCAs in the country, the Sioux City PCA is operated for farmers by farmers who understand the needs and problems involved in farming and farm credit.
"Problems create opportunities," observes Gates. Generally, he chooses his words cautiously and talks sparingly in between frequent thoughtful pauses, but there's no need to ponder this statement. The problem is the drought, and the opportunity is irrigation, which Gates regards as necessary for today's farming operation, "The investment that a farmer has to make in his crop has more than doubled in the last three to four years," he notes. Farmers can't afford to lose such outlays, yet they
Ed Gates, right, visits Keith Kuhn, one of four farmers participating in "Plan for Profit."
SIOUX CITY: SOWING THE FARMERS' PROFIT