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Farmers vow to intensify effort in 2001

Mid-South producers share New Year's resolutions for farming It's that time of year. The time when, with renewed vigor and the promise of a new start, we take a critical look in the mirror and mentally begin compiling the list of self-improvements on our agenda for the new year.

We promise ourselves that this will be the year we'll actually lose those 10 pounds that have been hanging around our belt line for at least the last five years. Or, we vow, again, to quit smoking, or to get better organized, or to budget our time and money better.

Often, our good intentions can carry us at least through the month of January and sometimes even into February. A small minority of us actually succeed in our quests to make permanent changes based on New Year's resolutions.

Because of the depressed farm economy, many farmers are among the resolution-makers determined to do things differently in 2001. To that end, we've asked a small sampling of Mid-South producers to share with us their New Year's resolutions.

Charles Fioranelli of Cleveland, Miss., who operates a rice and soybean farming operation with his two brothers, says he's determined to cut his production expenses in 2001.

"We have always done business exclusively with certain suppliers, based on loyalty, which is generally not good business," says Fioranelli.

In the past, Fioranelli says, when he needed something for the farm, he simply called a supplier on the phone and ordered what he needed, without getting a price in advance of the purchase "We'd just call and tell them to bring us the stuff."

That's all going to change in 2001, he says. "We're going to start shopping around for everything - from a quart of oil to a tankload of diesel to fertilizer. The only thing I can't shop around for is utilities."

The bottom line is also weighing heavily on the mind of Louisiana farmer Ronnie Sonnier.

Sonnier, a rice and soybean farmer in Kinder, La., says his New Year's resolutions all focus on making a profit in 2001. "We are very concerned about the new farm program - if there will even be one and what it will hold for us.

"We're pretty fortunate that we've received two government payments to keep us in the rice business, but that's not enough. We need to be making money, not just hanging on," says the Allen Parish farmer.

Kim and Bobby Maxey of Rebel Farms in Indianola, Miss., agree with Sonnier that resolving to remain in farming for another year may require a monumental effort in itself. "Our New Year's resolution is to simply survive 2001 so we can continue farming," Kim Maxey says.

That quest for survival is also on Ed Hester's list of New Year's resolutions. Hester, who farms cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat in Benoit, Miss., says, "To survive, the only options farmers have left are to increase production and lower costs."

The depressed farm economy, he says, is motivating producers to seek the crop mixes that provide the highest return. It's also forcing growers like Hester to look for new ways to cut production costs.

"It's going to be critical for us to all cut our costs if we want to survive and continue farming," Hester says. "We keep hearing that things are going to get better and you've got to truly believe that to continue in farming."

Steve Henderson of Pioneer, La., says his New Year's resolution is to spend more time on the marketing and business end of his farming operation.

The rice, soybean and milo farmer says, "I'm more of a nuts and bolts production-type of guy, but the unfortunate fact is that farmers can often make more money tending to the nuts and bolts of management and marketing. I tend to spend a whole lot of time on the day-to-day details of production, when I should be spending more time on marketing and financial management," Henderson says.

Joe Huerkamp of Macon, Miss., who produces cotton, corn and rice in the hill area of Mississippi, is also resolving to do a better job marketing his crops in 2001. "I'm going to try to sell my crops at higher prices. I'd like to make it rain in the summer, too, but that's probably more of a wish than a New Year's resolution."

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