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U.S. Farm Report Mailbag

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Comments, questions, opinions...this is your chance to speak out regarding anything and everything reported on U.S. Farm Report. Viewer feedback updated regularly.

Picture This - A Crazy Corn Plant

Aug 18, 2009
Editor's Note:  The August 15-16, 2009, edition of "U.S. Farm Report" generated viewer response on a number of fronts...

   Good Morning!  Thought you might be interested in this oddity.  I wonder how much corn has this kind of genetics?  
Dennis Spangler   
New Berlin, PA


   I am always interested in your take on government programs--I find your views quite refreshing. I am a small, diversified, first-generation dairy farmer (grain farmer wannabe but can't affordtobe). I have participated in grain-based government programs for as long as I have been farming, but like you, I wonder if we might be better off with the opportunities and level playing field and better PR that would be created in their absence. On a side note, however, I am quite appreciative of the MILC program this year.
   My recent indecision about the ACRE program has now officially resulted in a decision. I can honestly say I am satisfied with my decision, so I thought I'd share my thought process. My farm calculated an ACRE payment probability percentage for this year in the 60s--better than a coin toss. We have an excellent Extension Ag Business Specialist in our county, and her advice was for me to look at the risk management needs of my operation and see how the ACRE program fits in. Well, on our operation, a year of lower crop revenue does not necessarily result in a year that is less profitable. Crop yields are important, but even corn with a zero grain yield will still make silage and generate a large crop insurance payment.  Higher crop prices often hurt our bottom line more than they help. Milk prices have a much larger impact on our operation. Viewing ACRE as a risk management strategy for us seems to be flawed. Therefore, I have come to look at ACRE as more of a gamble than as a risk management program. In a year when every dollar is going to be necessary to pay bills, gambling with any percentage of direct payments (the bird in hand) doesn't seem to be a prudent idea, no matter what the probabilities are.
   If profitability ever returns to dairy farming, and if we can find somebody to milk for us, maybe we'll just take a trip to Vegas and try our luck with that 20% of our direct payments. Surely that would be more fun than all this number crunching. 
Derek England
   (Regarding "Smokey Bear") OK, so his middle name is not "the," but the concept that fewer fires are always good is not true. My understanding of forest ecology, weak as it is, suggests that some fires are needed for proper working of the ecosystem. I have heard some of the monster fires attributed to the idea that all fires are bad, fuel builds up, then when a small fire breaks out, it is uncontrollable.
Tom Colvin

   Nearly two years ago, a father wrote in and asked how his son could "get into" farming. I responded but your system had a meltdown. I received an email asking me to resubmit, but forgot about it until cleaning out some old deleted files. My response is tardy but still valid...
  I am sure that young man has found something, but the information could help others looking at farming as a life choice.
  First, get an education! After high school, attend a college with an ag department, looking toward a bachelor's in agricultural management. Take six years instead of four. You will still only be 24 when you graduate.
  During that time, look ANYWHERE for a part-time job in the "business" of farming. I worked a couple of summers at a small-town feed store. I learned a lot about crop production just from listening to the farmers bringing in their crops to sell. Listen closely. There will be many discussions about which is the best way to do things. Which weed products work best, which fertilizers are best and so on.
  Soak up as much information as you can. While all is not good  advice, the best combined with what you learn at school will filter out the bad and let you keep the good.
  There are large "farm" stores near big cities. They carry things for everyone from the real farmer to the couple who plant a few tomatoes, to clothes and so on. A job in their "ag" department would be another place to pick up information. A beginner's job at a newspaper is another choice. Or, if a job is not possible, see if you can tag along with an experienced ag reporter while you develop your "sea legs."
   If you are very, very lucky, you might actually find a part-time job on a farm in your area. Oftimes, older farmers just need another pair of hands and even if you don't make much (or possibly ANY) money, you will still have your hands-on experience.
   There are many other places you can find a part-time job that will get that foot in the door. The feed store was probably the first place I heard of the death of a local farmer, the fact that his kids had moved to the city, had no interest in the farm and if it was to be sold -- long before the local Realtors had heard a word. And during the time you are in college, establish the BEST CREDIT POSSIBLE. Get a Visa or MasterCard. Charge $25 to $30 each and every month and make sure you pay the entire balance well before the due date.
   If you need to buy a car, get an older, cheap one and, if possible, finance at the bank where your parents do business. You won't have a credit history there, but THEY do. You will probably need their co-signature. Don't be offended. It is just good banking. Make sure you can afford the payments and make them promptly.
   By the time you have your degree, you will know a whole lot about the farming "business" (because that is what it is), you will have established an excellent credit history (absolutely necessary if you are going to have to finance land), and you will know the lay of the land where you want to farm.
   There are probably many more suggestions for the young person (not necessarily a man these days) that would be appropriate, but that is all for me at the time. I hope my letter will prompt others to write in suggestions I have omitted. 
    Thanks for your excellent programming. I usually miss the first half-hour, as my wake-up call from the critters is 5:30, but I am sure the first half is just as good as the second one.

Kate Rivers
Riverbend Farms
Wentworth, Mo.
P.S.  I have a small acreage, a few White Park cattle, a couple of Percheron horses, 20 or so Spanish goats and a few Australian cattle dogs that I show when I can get away. I am nearing 70 and it gets harder each and every year, but I couldn't imagine any other lifestyle.
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COMMENTS (2 Comments)

Berten LisenBee
Kate. could i get your email address. i think we might have some things to talk about
4:36 PM May 25th
ddd nnn

1:19 PM Oct 9th
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