- Arkansas operation goes big in corn.
- Precise management top priority.
Arkansas farmer Tommy Young
The Southern farmer
Resistant weeds are only one threat to the Southern farmer, says Young. Congress’ lack of knowledge regarding Southern agriculture is another.
“If I was to ask for one thing (in a new farm bill) it would be a safety net for price more than one for production. That’s because in the Mid-South – at least in Arkansas – I suspect that 75 percent of the farmers are equipped in such a way where they can just about make a good crop even in drought.”
One thing backing Young up is the state average corn yield in 2012 was around 170 bushels. That was accomplished in the worst drought the region experienced in decades. In 2013, “we’ve made another state average record yield at 180 bushels.
“The reason we’re able to do that is because farmers have invested so heavily in irrigation. In 1980, my father had three wells on his farm. Now, we’ve got 60-plus wells and we’re running 30-something center-pivots. We’ve made ourselves as drought-proof as possible.”
That means crop insurance for the region, from the standpoint of production, means very little. “Crop insurance for us, from the standpoint of protecting and having a floor on price, is extremely important.
“A lot of people used the direct payments as price support. Those won’t be back after this farm bill. But the Arkansas farmer must have something in place to protect his position where he won’t be dangerously vulnerable to major price fluctuations.”
Too few acknowledge, says Young, that there is nothing that says input costs must come down when crop prices dip.
“Our Midwestern counterparts look at the situation much differently, of course. They look to crop insurance as something that helps after years of drought. If they have a drought and normally turn their normal 200-bushels corn yield to a 70-bushel yield, they want protection.”
The South is different. “We can always make a crop but it won’t necessarily be profitable because the price may have declined to the point where it won’t allow it.”
The inability of Congress to pass a new farm bill has hurt the nation is many ways than are obvious, says Young.
“It is important that we get a farm bill because it affects so many common, everyday things that most folks don’t think about. For example, with every second there isn’t a farm bill, foreign market development is like a can with a tight lid on it.
“I’m a member of the U.S. Grains Council. They have offices set up all over the world to promote sales. The needed funding to run those offices is often matched the U.S. government through several programs. Farmers contribute to those efforts through check-off dollars.
“Well, with no farm bill, all that has stopped. No one can do anything and we’re just forced to watch while other countries take sales out from under our noses. It takes years to develop these sales pipelines and deals and now they’re just sitting in limbo.
“Everyone knows when something like this lies dormant for a long time – it begins to disintegrate. The longer we delay the farm bill, the more these relationships and deals we’ve worked so hard to set up erode.”