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Serving: Central

Outside agriculture: Few understand pressure on farmers

I am glad some people choose to farm. My career has been about working with farmers. It has supported my family and also been personally satisfying. In addition, I also like to eat and I am afraid far too many people in our country forget that we have an abundance of food because we have farmers.

With that said, I sometimes have to wonder why anybody would want to do it. This year, for example, parts of Arkansas (most of it actually) were too dry all summer and the crops burned up. In some areas in the midst of the drought, heavy rains destroyed some crops.

Some farmers in one area in northeast Arkansas had received nearly perfect rainfall throughout the growing season and had outstanding crops. Some of those same farmers lost some of those outstanding crops to a 15-inch rain before they could get it out of the field.

We have been through the LibertyLink rice issue that put a damper on prices and spirits at the beginning of harvest just when prices started looking up. Fortunately that one seems to be slowly working itself out. Let's hope the recovery continues.

I and my university counterparts have dealt with a lot of farmers exasperated by herbicide drift situations. I am sure some farmers had other types of things to go wrong.

Then, after farmers deal with all of the things that can go wrong, they have only limited control over the price their commodity brings when they deliver it.

I was a farmer for one crop. I had 100 acres of soybeans in partnership with a cousin the first year I was out of college and working for the University of Arkansas. He had all of the money invested in the crop, because I didn't have any. Even so, I couldn't sleep at night.

We went about six weeks without a rain, and I nearly went nuts. It finally started raining, and we made a good crop. Soybeans hit $10 that year, and I told him to book our crop. His response was they were going to $12. We sold later for $5.05.

That did me in as a farmer, because I knew right then I could not stand the mental pressure. The pressure on me back then was nothing compared to what real farmers go through today. I decided I had better do what I had gone to college to learn to do. I knew no university administrator could put any pressure on me compared to that.

People outside agriculture — from those who use the commodities and often criticize farmers to those who make the rules and write the programs — have no clue as to the financial and mental pressures farmers are under right now.

In spite of all the gloomy things that have gone wrong, a lot of farmers are happy to be doing what they do and they are handling it very well.

I am going to write some this fall and winter about weed management for those of you in farming for the long haul. It bothers me greatly that a lot of farmers are not sure if they are or are not right now. It should not have to be that way.

While farmers should not be guaranteed a profit every year, they should have a fighting chance. Farmers I know do not want to be given anything except the chance to make a reasonable profit if they do their job well. Somehow farm programs and commodity prices are going to have to line up so the chances are better.

I hope everybody who wants to farm again next year will get that chance. Last year a lot of farmers who didn't have to did quit because they could not see it getting any better. It would not appear the crystal ball looks much different, and I am afraid a lot of farmers will make the same decision this year.

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