Russ Mauch, Mooreton, N.D., past president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, says it is no great mystery why the urban public has a complete lack of understanding of the life and challenges of a farmer.
"It can be summed up in two words," he says. "Magnitude and risk.
When the urban public hears about soaring grain prices, or the amount of money an acre of farmland might be worth, or news reports about the gross revenue that a given farmer expects after a successful harvest, "they automatically think that, given the numbers they're hearing, we're all filthy rich," he says. "But that's very often far from the truth."
That's the issue of "magnitude."
"Most people are not accustomed to hearing about expenses and bills in the size that farmers see on a daily basis," he says.
Mauch, who farms 8,000 acres of corn, soybeans and sugarbeets, says his fertilizer bill for this year was $800,000; his crop insurance was close to $200,000 and his diesel fuel will be over $400,000 for the year.
"Those are numbers that, frankly, are incomprehensible to many people," he says. "My wife calls it 'funny money,' since it just doesn't seem real. Who ever has to deal with utility bills like that?"
The other issue is risk.
"What the public does not understand is all of the risks we take that are out of our hands," he says.
There are local risks -- wind, flooding, hails, insects, diseases and wildlife for instance -- and risk that are global, such as trade, prices and interest rates.
"Most people face maybe one or two of these risks at their current jobs," he says. "Farmers face all of them, year in and year out."
The years 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 were Mauch's worst financially, he says. He has farmed since 1981. But 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 were his best years.
"Try planning for something like that!" he says.
Source: Crop Insurance TODAY, www.CropInsuranceInAmerica.com