The last two crop years have been challenging for Mid-South producers, not only from the standpoint of low commodity prices, but also due to bad weather, according to growers participating in the Survival Strategy Summit in Memphis, Tenn.
Few have found it more challenging than growers in northeast Arkansas where flood-like rains in the spring, drought in the summer and hail storms a few weeks before harvest have cost farmers plenty in terms of yields and quality over the last two seasons.
That was the case for Mike Sullivan, a rice, soybean and wheat producer from Burdette, Ark. Sullivan said he had a "super" crop in 2014 and was preparing to do the same in 2015 when weather problems reduced yields to closer to his five-year average, as he explained during the focus group meeting, which was sponsored by BASF during the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.
"We had a period from May 6 to June 6 (in 2015) when we didn't have a tractor in the field," he said. "We had to flood all of our rice. We had to put our fertilizer into the water, drop it in, spoon feed it because we couldn't get it to dry out. With things like that we felt like we had our hands tied behind our backs from the get-go. We had a heat spell from the middle of July to early August that I attribute our lower soybean yields to."
Sullivan said he did almost exactly the same thing in 2015 that he did in 2014 to grow a crop, but the results were soybeans were 10 bushels off from 2014 and rice was 10 to 15 bushels off.
"I think a lot of people had to remind ourselves 2014 was an aberration," he said. "We can't expect to have those yields every year. We're trying to grow for high yields or high net returns. If we spend the same amount and don't make as much we have a net result that' isn't good. It takes every bushel to make it cash flow right now."
Sullivan was one of a group of 16 producers who sat down with Delta Farm Press and discussed the 2015 season during a grower focus meeting at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show. Sullivan said he and fellow panel member Franklin Fogelman are treating every field as a separate business as they prepare for 2016.
For more on the agricultural outlook, click on http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/agricultural-productivity.aspx