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`Farm Speak' Expresses Cautious Harvest Jitters In a Year of Mixed Results

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ON the day before Jim Moseley plans to start harvesting, he heads out to the fields in his Buick LeSabre. The cornstalks crackle with anticipation. It is shaping up to be an excellent crop year in Indiana.

But do not tell that to Mr. Moseley.

``See those tops?'' he asks, pointing to cornstalks where the tops have fallen over. Too much rain has weakened them. ``This here is extremely vulnerable. A 40-miles-per-hour wind and these stalks would be on the ground.''

Never mind that this will be his best corn crop in two years. Never mind that the state is on track to have the second-highest corn yields in its history. Moseley, who served three years in the Bush administration, mostly at the United States Department of Agriculture, still has the harvest jitters like everyone else.

We drive to a soybean field.

``These are going to be pretty good,'' he concedes, walking up to the waist-high yellow-and- brown stalks. ``I can just tell by looking.''

In fact, they are excellent. If the official estimate holds true, Indiana will harvest 47 bushels of soybeans per acre - the highest average yield ever recorded by any state in the nation.

Moseley's thinking, though, is elsewhere. ``Hail would be disastrous,'' he says. ``Generally speaking, we don't get hail this late in the year. But my second year of farming....'' He goes on to describe the chunks of ice that ruined his soybeans that year.

Welcome to ``farm speak,'' a predilection to view God's bounty with the suspicion of a doubting Thomas and the pessimism of Job. In farm speak, the greenest field is ripe for calamity and disaster comes in many flavors. The word ``great'' does not exist, unless linked to something negative.

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