Promising year went wrong in too many places

Farmers are trying to wind up what has been a most difficult year. If fact it has been the most difficult year watching farmers try to farm that I can ever remember.

The year started off with great optimism. During the winter meeting season, prices of all commodities seemed to be setting records every day.

You hear sportscasters make the comment sometimes that a team “peaked too early.” To an extent, that happened with commodity prices. They got so high so early that it gave everyone time on the input side to catch up. It has been my observation through the years that the only time a farmer really had the opportunity to have a “catch up year” was if they had a good crop and commodity prices went up after the crop was made.

We went from the optimism of the high prices during the early spring to an extended period of wet weather and flooding during the prime planting season. This caused most crops, especially rice, to be planted extremely late.

Planting date studies show that the highest yielding rice is generally the earliest planted rice. This does not mean later planted rice can not yield well.

Everyone was hoping that we would have a year that would be abnormally warm into the fall to play catch up and that didn’t happen.

Oh, I almost forgot, two hurricanes blew a lot of the crops down and battered the ones left standing.

Many areas of Arkansas had a drought in the middle of the growing season.

Once the crop was planted, fuel and fertilizer prices went through the roof.

I do not see how a farmer stands the pressure. I could not help but admire farmers who were watering ground with $4 diesel to plant a soybean crop in June and early July. I thought, “Man, how do you do it.”

Even after about everything went wrong that could, I had a lot of calls from farmers saying, “Doc, my rice yields are way off from last year. What did I do wrong!”

Most said that with the good prices they would be OK. However, with good prices and high input costs, you hope for a bumper crop as well to make up some ground. In a lot of cases this year the yield isn’t there.

It would seem that everyone unfamiliar with the real world thinks every farmer sold his entire crop at the peak of the market and reaped a windfall with all of the high prices everyone heard about.

Few, including me, understand how speculators can run prices up artificially high and the farmer finds out his crop isn’t worth those high prices, thus that frustrating term “basis.” A lot of farmers booked their crop at what seemed to be a home run price only to see prices later double and fuel and fertilizer prices go through the roof, making the home run look like a foul ball.

A lot of farmers wanted to book crops at high prices only to find out they could not.

The next time you decide to criticize a farmer you had better go find one to hug instead.

I guess all of us right now are looking at the goings on in Washington and in the economy and wondering about our futures and the futures of our children and theirs. However, my reason for optimism lies squarely on the shoulders of agriculture. When you drive across the breadbasket of our nation, one has to know the world has to have our agriculture.

At the same time, it is never mentioned in a campaign speech. I believe agriculture is the most taken-for-granted thing our great country has. When oil, glyphosate and fertilizer prices go through the roof, I hear that global markets are driving the prices, giving the impression that the United States doesn’t matter anymore. We are in a global market, but we still matter big time.

When Americans bought less fuel, oil prices came down. The same will be true with other inputs. It is amazing that gas and diesel prices go up in an instant but take months to come down.

You may say this is not a weed science article. Yes, it is, because it illustrates how simple weed control decisions are compared to the big picture farmers must deal with.

e-mail: [email protected]

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.