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Don't panic and always carry a sharp knife

Editors receive a lot of what fellow Farm Press staffer Ben Pryor calls “over-the-transom” material. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like the volume has risen exponentially with the advent of e-mail.

There are things we actually look forward to receiving, however, because of the information they provide or the fresh outlook. One is the weekly Ag Report from Roger Carter and the staff at Agricultural Management Services Inc. in Clayton, La.

Carter, a former president of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants and a Consultant of the Year several times, lists his partners, Tim White, Walter Myers and Nate Wellborn as co-authors. But anyone who knows Roger or has heard him speak knows who writes most of it.

AMS distributed a print version of the newsletter for years. (In one, in a year when farmers faced innumerable weather delays, a farmer reportedly told Carter he would never plant cotton in June, but he might plant some on May the 45.)

Carter stopped writing the newsletter for a while and then resurrected it last spring in an e-mail version.

In the latest, Carter laments how the weather has taken a turn for the worse in Catahoula, Concordia, southern Tensas and northern Avoyelles Parishes, the east-central Louisiana “counties” where AMS provides consulting services.

“Weather may again be our undoing of what appeared to be one of the best crops we have seen in several years,” Carter writes. “Continued rainfall the past two weeks has caused severe boll rot. Sunlight has been limited on days when it didn't rain.”

Carter said boll rot may run as high as 50 percent in some fields. “Even where rainfall only occurred for three days, rot is more pronounced than we expected,” he notes. “Yet we have hopes that this week will be dry and full of sunshine and wind and that we can still harvest a strong crop.”

Plant bugs are a growing worry, and Carter says AMS is advising growers to continue to treat even in cotton that is trying to shut down. “They can damage most soft bolls and prevent them from opening naturally,” he says.

Each newsletter ends with a story, most of which Carter says are true. The latest concludes with an excerpt, purportedly taken from a survival manual for Peace Corps volunteers, on what to do if you're attacked by an anaconda.

Space doesn't permit listing all of the tips here, but you can't help but laugh and have chills run up and down your spine at the thought of allowing yourself to be partially swallowed by a giant snake.

The situation is, of course, analogous to what's happening to many in agriculture. Carter says he knows consultants and farmers who have moved on to other lines of work because of the financial difficulties in production agriculture, particularly in the South.

“I don't claim to have an answer better than DON'T PANIC AND ALWAYS CARRY A SHARP KNIFE,” he says, quoting the last line of the survival manual. That may be the best advice we can give anyone in agriculture these days.

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