Time for Our Next Crop
Thank goodness it is time—or almost time—to head to the field. Amid the angst in the general economy and the uncertainty ahead for agriculture, we can go do what ag does best: grow things. Granted, we'll be keeping a closer eye on costs and commodity prices, but it is hard to be a farmer and not be optimistic in the spring.
Many operations will be playing catch-up from the chaos of the 2008 growing season: putting on fertilizer, taking care of tillage and handling ruts. Not the best way to start a crop, but 2008 proved to all of us that we can have less-than-perfect execution and still capture strong yields.
It is never hard to find stress in ag, but the strife our families and industry is going through pales compared with that of nonfarm families. Farmers aren't in the unemployment lines or looking at a disappearing industry. Demand is strong, and the fundamentals of ag are holding firm in a sea of economic weakness.
As David Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus of ag finance and small business management and entrepreneurship, recently joked at the Bayer Ag Issues Forum: "Ag is the kid in school that hasn't gotten the flu yet. It's one of this country's best-kept secrets.”
Kohl sees agriculture as an "economic engine” even though he expects volatility to be the new norm. That means it is time to count our blessings, keep our heads screwed on straight and remember that these are the times when production and management skills really shine. Time to go make it happen!
--Charlene Finck, Editor
You can e-mail Charlene at firstname.lastname@example.org
USDA's Initial Look at Acreage Predictions
USDA's first official forecast of the 2009 growing season was released at the Outlook Forum in late February. Below are analysts' projections:
Corn: USDA analysts said their projection of 86 million acres of corn plantings—unchanged from a year ago—is due to "the sharp year-to-year drop in expected net returns.” Further, analysts said corn ending stocks are expected to be lower "as expanded corn ethanol use and higher exports more than offset the increase in supplies and a small reduction in feed and residual use.”
Soybeans: The increase in soybean acres to a projected 77 million acres is due to areas outside the Corn Belt, "as high input costs and lower expected area for wheat, cotton and peanuts boost plantings of less input- intensive soybeans.” Analysts noted that higher use only partly offsets the 9% boost in soybean supplies, resulting in sharply higher ending stocks. They also said the increase in soybean acres likely could have been greater but is "limited by fewer double-crop plantings due to lower prices and winter wheat plantings.”
Wheat: Seeded wheat acres for 2009 are projected at 58 million. "Production is projected lower with less winter wheat seeded last fall, expectations of lower spring wheat seedings and a decline in yield from last year's record.” Further, a rise in wheat stocks is coming as "higher beginning stocks and lower exports more than offset lower production.” On the trade front, "strong import demand for feed-quality wheat in 2008–09 will return to more normal trade and usage patterns in 2009–10.”
Cotton: With cotton acreage forecasted to decline to 8.5 million, analysts say there is "greater than normal uncertainty.” With prices for alternative crops above their respective loan rates, "2009 planting decisions will be based mainly on expected market returns, rather than government program benefits.” The continued dry conditions in Texas could result in cotton being seeded on failed winter wheat acres.
Welding University Winners
Three grand-prize winners of a drawing sponsored by Miller Electric Manufacturing Company and Farm Journal will receive their choice of a Bobcat 250 welder/generator or a combination of a Millermatic 212 MIG welder and a Spectrum 625 plasma cutter. The winners are:
Richard Zoern, Birnamwood, Wisconsin
Chad Schincke, Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Zeke Dalton, La Sal, Utah
The grand-prize winners will receive welding training from Miller experts at the company's training facility in Appleton, Wis. They also will receive a Miller auto-darkening welding helmet and Arc Armor protective apparel.
Three first-prize winners will receive an auto-darkening welding helmet. Those winners are Andrew Clark, Tyrone, Pa.; Charles Voss, Carlyle, Ill.; and Larry D. Eblin, Caledonia, Ohio.
Ten second-prize winners will receive Miller welding gloves. Those winners are Alvin Wuertz, Paynesville, Minn.; Wade Peterson, East Grand Forks, Minn.; Paul Giles, Gentryville, Ind.; Jeremy Park, Stuyvesant Falls, N.Y.; Merle Spoelstra, Cushing, Wis.; Harlow Strandlund, Homestead, Mont.; Marc Johnson, Wahoo, Neb.; David Strupp, Mount Vernon, Ind.; Craig Miller, McGregor, Texas; and Dennis Yoder, Middlebury, Ind.