When crops are planted late in the Mid-South, all farmers can do is hope that Mother Nature can bail them out with a long, open fall that matures crops and allows for timely harvests. When this didn’t happen in 2009, Mid-South corn, cotton, soybean, rice and grain sorghum crops sat way past their prime in rain-soaked fields.
It took a high level of skill and cooperation among Mid-South farmers to finally harvest what was left of last year’s crops — but not without significant losses in yield and quality. At the time of this writing, disaster assistance for these losses was yet to be determined.
As we embark on a new year, my wish list for future prosperity on the farm begins and ends with the weather:
• A planting season that starts early and ends early. Early-planted crops can usually be counted on for consistency. That’s what growers need this coming season — consistency.
• High cotton prices. I could go on about how cotton generates seven dollars for every one dollar spent, or the traditions of King Cotton. But I won’t. Cotton is just plain pretty sitting in the field. Cotton belongs out there.
• A cheap enzyme. Nothing would bring order back to the universe like the capacity to cheaply convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol. There is an enzyme under development that will accomplish this. We just need a way to manufacture the enzyme cheaply.
• A wakeup call in Washington. The best stimulus package for jobs in the United States is to keep the American farmer on the farm. Farmers are great distributors of wealth in rural communities. They create jobs and stability.
• Another wakeup call in Washington. I suppose it’s really not all that surprising that we have a permanent disaster program that punishes farmers who diversify their crop mix. SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments) pays out only on a percentage of total farm loss, but is not crop specific. If you’re diversified, SURE is less likely to help because a loss in one crop can be offset by a gain in another. Congress has an opportunity to offset SURE shortcomings by approving timely disaster legislation this month.
• Sensibility on climate change. People point to an overwhelming consensus among scientists that climate change is mankind’s mistake and declare that’s reason enough to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
But no endeavor can succeed without an enlightened and willing constituency behind it.
Convince us first of five things: that man-made greenhouse gas is the primary cause of global warming; that global warming is truly a bad thing; why world governments need to regulate our greenhouse gas emissions; that regulation will have made a difference by the time we run out of fossil fuels; and finally, if the world is warming, why am I seeing my breath as I write this?