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Best and worst of 2021 grain farming

Getty/iStockphoto/luchschen Silhouette corn plant on the background of the sunset sky
Down corn and input prices caused challenges, while yields and prices showed promise.

Well, we made it to the end of another year. We know that no two years are the same and that every year has its challenges and high points. 2021 agriculture was no exception.

As I write, please realize my area is grain farming in the Midwest. That’s what I do. That’s what I know. That’s what I focus on. I’m sure other sectors have different things going on, which I do not address.

Worst of 2022

Let’s start with the worst of. These are pretty simple to me. The first one is the down corn issue we had. Certainly, that did not impact a large area, but it was more than a thorn in our side. Two weeks to finish the last 200 acres (normally a 2- or 3-day job) was excruciating.

Now, you would think it is over, but we still have to make a bunch of repairs to the combines and draper heads that stem from running them in the down corn. As a result, those hybrids are out of our lineup permanently. Though it may not have completely been their fault, we will not take that risk again. There are other choices out there.

It seems everyone will be dealing other ‘worst of’ for quite some time. Crop production and crop protection have gone through the roof! Honestly, these price levels will threaten the livelihood of many farmers this year. Tight reins will be required to stay afloat.

Most everyone I know has plans to reduce fertilizer inputs and adjust yield expectations downward. We are no longer looking to maximize yield, but to find the sweet spot in ROI and stay in the black. We have made changes in traits to be able to secure chemistry for 2022.

I’ve seen lately where producer groups are trying to go after the industries, but I think it is too little too late. Once prices are set for pre-purchase at year end, rarely do they go down. Dad is more optimistic about softening prices, but I look at the supply crisis and transportation issues and don’t see how it could happen. I hope I’m wrong!

Best of 2022

Let’s move on to the best of. Grain prices rebounded in the first half of 2021. This allowed a great opportunity for many to have a solid year. Generally, yields were also good. I didn’t hear of too many record-breaking crops, but even if yields were off a little, there was opportunity there because of prices. If grain prices can hold firm and advance a little bit, they would help offset some of the additional expenses from the high input prices.

The other ‘best of’ for our farm comes in the form of adding someone to run the shop. I haven’t talked about it much. After going a year and a half without replacing our previous full-time help, we finally hired someone before harvest.

Unlike before when our full timer’s duty were more general labor type activities, this time our focus was on shop work and machinery upkeep. Sure, we still want Ken to drive tractor in season and haul grain from time to time, but we were always running short on time in the shop. Honestly, we never had time to keep things very tidy. That is changing. So far everything is a good fit and is going well. We are way ahead of usual, but there are many projects on the list. This addition has taken a lot of pressure off dad and myself.

Another year is nearly in the books. I hope everyone had a great and safe year! See you in 2022.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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