I like this time of year; crops are planted, the fields are just starting to green-up plus I get satisfaction when I see how fast farmers can spray a quarter of land, It is simply a lovely, satisfying time of year. I am almost a little embarrassed sometimes at my on my own naivete at what is actually going on in those fields.
When you drive by a field of corn, beans, beets or even a pasture of cattle-you are seeing a business. Your view is of a substantial investment that typically only pays back with an even greater investment of time and good management. The average person believes business owners or farmers are rich but the reality is the motivation to farm is a love of the farm and people prefer to work for themselves. They also like the idea that their rewards are tied to their efforts.
Farming has always been subject to outside influences, it just seems there are more now. There also seems to be less of a cycle to the ebb and flow of income. Cattle used to be on a cycle you could count on but I think that we have such efficient transportation now that regional influences have been replaced by national or even global influences. It’s harder to know what prices are coming your way when they originate a country or even an ocean away from you.
I think most farmers my age or older got into farming because they like the peace and solitude of riding a tractor or tending livestock and feel it’s worth the price to maintain that tractor or birthing calves in the cold. The problem is, outside influences are now seated right in the tractor and track your path in the pasture. Trade, global weather, transportation problems and the commodity market are now as much a part of the bottom line as fertilizer, rent, production and personal spending. You are not alone in that tractor, anymore.
Weather has been a real issue the last few years. There was a lot of brown on the national map last year when we had drought. This year, much of the nation received a massive drop-shipment of rain. The i-states (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana) are behind in planting, Indiana corn was only 67% planted while their soybeans were only 42% planted as of June 9th. The “I” states are usually cultivating in late march to early April so this is really late. You would think this, along with lower corn stocks, would bring prices up for a long time but the prices will likely change as we get monthly crop progress reports from the USDA.
Some farmers may have land they can’t plant and will receive some prevent planting payments under crop insurance. These acres may or may not receive payments under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) however the second round of MFP payments will be issued eventually in support of planted acres. The MFP payments may make all the difference when farmers pull up a balance sheet this fall.
What does this all mean? It means that your friend who farms probably has a lot on his or her mind. It also means that farming, which has always been a business wrapped in a lifestyle, has become even more business. This means that your view from the road is probably a lot more simple and peaceful than the view from the field I always like when I see pictures of farming friends having lunch in the field because that means there’s still a good life in all that business and lifestyle mixture.