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Keith Larochelle has a criticism for row crop farmers.
"Such excitement and joy in the row crop community as of late about the prospects for hot and dry weather in the western Corn Belt, that if it materializes, will hurt and in some cases wipe out crops thereby lowering national yields and driving up prices. My comment on this: it's sick and disgusting! That we grow too much of these commodities, wasting all those inputs, and then hoping and praying for bad weather or a natural disaster, but on someone else's fields of course, so my crops will be worth more. I'm sorry, but I don't have much respect for row-crop farmers anymore, at least ones with this mindset! How did we get to this place in this country; and I suppose other countries as well that are large-scale producers?"
Keith, thanks for writing. Let me be as precise as possible. My sense is all farmers share to some degree this emotional cross-current regarding crop problems.
The first thing to keep in mind is like other random calamities, we are aware it is a matter of luck. And the older you are, the more likely you recall it was a time when your fields were unlucky. I don't think many of us are glad of drought elsewhere, but we recognize it as a big risk we must endure equally.
Oddly enough, the existence of government-subsidized crop insurance tends to dampen our empathy. Virtually all farmers in the Northern Plains have coverage, so these losses are at least partially offset. Safety nets diminish sympathy - think about how many people think about those on welfare.
Regardless, we have no way of knowing at the beginning of the season how much supply and demand there will be so we all take our best guess. If it seems like we are rejoicing in the misfortune of others that may be an extreme interpretation of our relief of being able to see higher returns during a period of declining net farm income.
The competitive nature of capitalism can seem ugly and self-centered, especially in commodities where all of us are producing exactly the same product. It is a balancing act to reconcile our economic rules of engagement with our moral beliefs.
Those farmers who do so with humility and compassion lift our whole profession.
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