Phipps: Belt Tightening, Replacing Belts

October 2, 2017 09:30 AM

For those of you who lived with someone who lived through the Great Depression, this ditty may sound familiar, "Use it up, wear it out. Make do or do without."

Long after I've forgotten my anniversary date, I probably remember that tiresome advice from my father. I may be there already.

Aaron and I have quietly been embracing this hard times rule of thumb. Our investment in machinery has slowed to a trickle, although we are spending on repairs and upgrades.

Both of us have the financial scars from trading for tax reasons like Section 179 depreciation and for comfort or new gadgetry. Those are now luxuries that three-dollar corn won't support. Ironically for machinery manufacturers, the quality and durability of farm equipment will let us stretch out the usable lifetime of equipment to surprising extremes.

Tender care and feeding will keep these horses working for a long time, we have found.

Perhaps our situation is more uncertain than some, or maybe we have different financial priorities, but I don't think we are alone in our parsimonious approach to rolling capital.

Many of us are getting more at ease with operating yesterday's machinery. Not having any machinery debt seems to be a hit with our banker as well.

While we know this can't continue forever, careful maintenance has already stretched it out longer than we had imagined.

My admiration for the engineering and construction of modern machinery has risen as well. If anybody is a victim of their own success, it could farm machinery makers more than farmers.

The problem is as we reset our expectations for useful machinery lifetimes, it will affect our buying habits well into the future. After all, Dad never did loosen his grip on every nickel.

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Spell Check

Aaron Maurer
Olivet, MI
10/2/2017 07:59 PM

  It is so refreshing to hear the hot shots talk this way, some of us still remember the farm depression of the 80-90's quite well, and still may have some jet lag from the fun ride we had back then. Its going to be so much fun watching all the high flyers do some practice landing with out a parachute, Priceless I tell ya priceless.

Columbia, WI
10/3/2017 04:23 AM

  Are we supposed to feel bad for those that apparently thought 6,7,8 $ corn was gonna last far into the future. God forbid you have to do alittle repairing and oil changing instead of trading every year. Did you just fall off the turnip truck.

Arlo Blumhagen
Drake, ND
10/3/2017 08:48 AM

  For those who think we farmers are facing "Hard Times", I recommend reading "The Worst Hard Time" written by Timothy Egan, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. I quit college to farm in 1961, a very bad drought year in North Dakota, and have survived several since. NO new machinery on my and my wife's farm. Arlo


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