More than 70 Missouri farmers, and state and federal agriculture officials got together Thursday afternoon in Mexico to discuss current farm financial challenges.
Richard Fordyce, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said during the opening statement that the goal of the meeting was to understand “the mood across the countryside of Missouri” and “make the industry better for the next generation.”
Scott Brown, assistant extension professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Missouri, provided a 45-minute overview of the financial outlook for Missouri agriculture. During his his presentation, Brown predicted that it would be difficult to recover anytime soon from the lower farm income of the past few years brought on by volatile commodity prices, lower land value, reduced farm income, higher producing costs, heavier use of agriculture loans, and unpredictable weather. Although land value and cash rental rates have softened slightly, there haven’t been substantial changes.
Brown said that farmers should be skeptical of the government’s long-term projections and adjust their expectations accordingly. He suggested producers carefully plan benchmarking and risk-management strategies and be aware of the big picture of the industry.
“The future remains difficult to predict, especially with all of the volatility,” he said. “If you don’t know where you are at, how do you know where you want to go?”
Following Brown’s presentation, a panel of five local farmers and agriculture officials discussed local agriculture situations.
The panelists brought up issues such as debt stress, rising land value, lower farm income, insufficient one-time subsidies, among other farm financial concerns. They also discussed current agriculture policies such as a crop insurance program and emergency loans that can help farmers during economic downturn and disaster periods.
Sandra Waibel, a panelist and farm-loan specialist at Farm Service Agency, said the high cost of farming is challenging for younger farmers. To ease economic stress, she suggested that farmers be well aware of their break-even points by knowing what they owe and how to pay it off. Also, having nonfarm income and diversifying operations provide a crucial buffer for farmers, she said.
John Cauthorn, a farmer from Audrain County, questioned the wisdom of having nonfarm income. “Food production should be the priority to the nation,” he said. “(Relying on other jobs and also working on farms) is a curse upon society.” He suggested that farmers look into low-cost organic farming, decrease their expenses and, most importantly, be flexible and constantly look out for possibilities.
One farmer thought that the government agencies and MU Extension should educate the general public who lack agricultural knowledge. Another suggested that farmers, especially younger ones, come to meetings like this more often so as to better understand the industry and seek advice from other farmers. Cauthorn echoed the sentiment: “We should know what we can do as a group, work hard and be smart.”
Hadley Linnenbringer, a 72-year-old third-generation farmer raising corn, soybeans, cattle and hens in Auxvasse said that his family business had been stressed by high input and mandatory insurance costs. His son who works on the farm with him is passionate about farming, but Linnenbringer doesn’t see a rosy future.
“It’s a tight farm,” he said. “I feel sorry for him, but I don’t think we are getting any better.”
This was the first of seven meetings organized by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and MU Extension. The other six sessions will also focus on Missouri farm financial stress and will take place across the state in July. Similar sessions are being hosted by agriculture departments in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. Feedback gathered from these four states will be reported to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, according to Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Information about the other six sessions in Missouri are listed below:
Rock Port – July 7, 7 p.m.–9 p.m.
MU Extension Center in Atchison County, 201 Hwy 136 East, Rock Port
Contact: Randa Doty (660) 582–8101
Excelsior Springs – July 8, 10 a.m.–noon
Flander Hall-107 W Broadway, Excelsior Springs
Contact: Nate Cahill (660) 747–3193
Springfield – July 11, 2 p.m.–4 p.m.
Springfield Livestock Marketing Center, 6821 W Independence Dr, Springfield
Contact: Wesley Tucker (417) 326–4916
Miner – July 12, 9 a.m.–noon
Miner Convention Center, 2610 E. Malone Ave., Miner
Contact: David Reinbott (573) 545–3516
St. Peters – July 13, 6:30 p.m.–9 p.m.
MU Extension Center in St. Charles County, 260 Brown Rd., St. Peters
Contact: Ken Bolte (636) 583–5141, Rachael Hopkins (573) 438–2671
Kirksville – July 14, 9:30 a.m.–noon
MO Dept. of Conservation Reg. Office, 3500 S. Baltimore, Kirksville
Contact: Darla Campbell (660) 457–3469, Joe Koenen (660) 947–2705
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