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Tristate farmers share top issues during Farm & Gin Show

Cary Blake Kevin Lewis
Tennessee farmer Kevin Lewis and grandson Elijah Norville take a short break during the 2018 Farm & Gin Show held March 2-3 at Memphis, Tenn.
Mid-south farmers look at 2018 expectations, challenges at Farm and Gin Show

Farmers attending the Farm & Gin Show at Memphis, Tenn., March 2-3 spent hours kicking tires, quizzing product representatives and looking for ways to improve their bottom lines while protecting the environment.

Farm Press talked to three farmers during the event to get insights on what they expect in 2018 from their farms and U.S. agriculture.

Kevin Lewis, Tennessee farmer

Kevin Lewis farms 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans, plus 120 Angus cattle at Union City, Tenn.

His 2018 planting intentions include switching some soybean acreage to corn.

“We’ll probably have a little more corn than last year (as) the (corn) price looks a little better,” said Lewis, a second-generation farmer with 33 years of production under his belt.

He grows DeKalb and Dyna-Gro corn varieties, and enjoys raising cattle.

“I’m proud of my cattle, but I like the row crop business, too,” Lewis said. “I like to watch the cattle have calves, and growing and raising them. It’s a lot different than a feedlot.”

When asked if he’s bullish or bearish about agriculture’s future, Lewis said, “It depends on the day and what the market is doing. That’s farming.”

Lewis is pleased that the federal government is reducing the regulatory burden on farmers. He’d like fewer regulations on farm chemical use, including the broad-spectrum herbicide dicamba.

“(Regulations) are awfully tough on dicamba – it’s a good product for us,” Lewis said. “We had pigweed bad and it did a great job for us last year.”

He said many farmers are conscientious about how dicamba is used. Also on Lewis’ regulatory wish list is relaxed rules on antibiotic use for cattle.

“(For years government) didn’t want us to use antibiotics on cattle. What are you going to do – let them lay there and die? I can’t do that.”

Joined at Lewis’ hip at the 66th Farm & Gin Show was his teenaged grandson Elijah Norville who said, “I would like to farm; I enjoy it, and I’ve been helping since I was little.” He enjoys working hard and “getting sweaty.

 “Since I was little, I wanted to start my own business. Over the years I’ve learned that will be hard. I’d like to be in FFA and show cows,” Norville said.

His regular farm chores include cutting and netting off hay bales and feeding cattle. Norville sees opportunities for innovative technology in agriculture. “Tractors driven by a laptop will be different and will help out a lot,” he said.

Matthew Boyd, Mississippi farmer

Mississippi farmer Matthew Boyd stopped for a few minutes to talk while looking at farm equipment in the South Hall at the Cook Convention Center. “I’m not shopping for anything in particular – just seeing what’s new out there.”

Boyd and his father David farm 700 acres of corn and soybeans at their family’s Boyd Farms near Sandhill, north of Jackson in central Mississippi.

Matthew said for 2018, “We’ll be roughly 50-50 corn and soybeans, probably a little less corn due to the rotation we’re in right now. We’ll be about the same as last year.”

“The cost of inputs is a serious issue for us – [compared to] the price of the crop.”

He said when grain prices increase so do the price of inputs, and when grain prices decline input costs stay the same or increase.

Overall, Boyd is bullish on agriculture’s future, noting that the world needs agriculture to produce more food for a growing world population, a condition he faces daily since the family farm is located closer to urban fringe areas than Boyd would like.

“We need to produce more (food) since (predictions) are for less land we’ll be able to work. We have houses and development coming –land is being used for houses. It don’t ever go back.”

Ricky Fuller, Louisiana farmer

For weeks, Ricky Fuller and many other Mid-South farmers were wondering how heavy rains across much of the region would affect spring planting.

Fuller, who farms 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans at Darnell in northeast La., said, “It’s wet right now. Hopefully, we’ll get about 300 to 400 acres of corn in, and about 600 to 700 acres of soybeans. That’s the game plan.

By early March, the Fuller farm had received 14 or 15 inches of rain this year.

With tight farming margins, Fuller and his employee farm as conservatively and as cost efficient as possible since their profit margin is slim.

“The biggest challenge now is pigweed resistance to Roundup and trying to work around that,” Fuller said. “There is dicamba, but there are many risks with it. Trying to keep the crops clean and bug free are probably the biggest risks — and water.”

To help combat Roundup resistance, Fuller said many farmers are practicing extra tillage – going back to the old ways of cultivation to handle weeds.

If Fuller could wave a magic wand to improve his farm’s bottom line, he’d hope for “higher grain prices so it wouldn’t be as tight of a profit margin so we could have a little leeway to catch up with the bad years.”

Despite all the challenges, Fuller is thankful. “I thank the good Lord for allowing me to farm. I’m 60 years old and this is all I’ve ever done.”

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