Reflecting on 2013 & Hoping for a Better 2014

It’s the last day of 2013 and I’m thinking back about all that has happened during the past years.  So many memories have been created – both good and bad.

The 2013 farming year can easily be described as a roller coaster!  As the spring planting season got underway, we were hit with a late-season snow storm.  Then monsoon season struck, and the equivalent to a whole year’s worth of rain fell as I tried to plant my crops.  We experienced the wettest spring on record for 141 years.  I finally finished planting by mid-June, close to six weeks later than normal.  And that’s when the rain stopped.  Even with all the rain we received in the spring, a good share of Iowa is still under some type of drought rating.

Fall harvest also was a big challenge.  With such late planting, I harvested some very corn.  It was difficult to combine and required lots of LP to dry down the moisture for safe storage.  Now commodity prices have dropped to break even or below.  Many Americans are asking for an increase in the minimum wage, but sometimes there is no wage for farmers!

This brings to mind the “Farm Bill” that has yet to pass.  There’s been much talk, little action.  I’ve already written so much about this bill, but today I want to comment on the part that most directly affects my farming operation.  I have bought crop insurance every year as far as I can remember.  I received a settlement one year, and it looks like there may be another one this year.  The point is, I have paid far more in premiums than I will ever receive in pay outs.

While I understand this is pretty typical of insurance, I only point this out because there is a misunderstanding that crop insurance is making farmers rich.  Even with a settlement, this will be a very unprofitable year for me.  That’s the way farming can be… Sometimes it takes two or three or even more years to make up for one bad year.  Even with crop insurance, farmers are still pretty much at the mercy of the weather.  Farmers prepare to weather the storms.

As the year 2013 comes to a close, I don’t want to dwell on my fears.  I want to remember the year’s highlights.  While I enjoyed several highlights this year, the one that tops my list is the Black Seas Study Tour sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

I spent 10 days in Ukraine and Romania with 25 other Iowans, checking out the competition that we will encounter from Eastern Europe in the future for our exports.  Exports are an extremely important part of U.S. farmers’ marketing strategy.  We have become very efficient at production on our farms and ranches, which allows for some balancing of our country’s trade.  The USA has become increasingly hungry for products from other countries, so we need to export something to balance this hunger.

Ukraine, with a majority of fertile soil that can grow crops in the right climate, is like an awakening bear. This country was the Bread Basket of the Soviet Union.  With the right governing climate, it can become a major competitor for the same markets that Americans have been developing.

Regulations are putting a strangle hold on U.S. farmers, so we may lose the competitive advantage we’ve enjoyed for years.  Not only will this hurt agriculture, it will hinder the growth of all U.S. industries that supply agriculture.  Small towns and small businesses in rural America have a huge stake in a healthy farm economy!

It’s my hope that 2014 finds us with a Farm Bill and more favorable growing conditions.  Where there is seed, there is hope!

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” – Henry David Thoreau