Best and Worst of 2013: A Farmer's Perspective

Between the Fencerows

...and what's on the radar for 2014

Published on: December 31, 2013

In this issue I will close out the year by looking back at the best and worst of 2013 and also note some topics to be on the watch for in 2014. Some items are general Ag, while others are specific to our operation.

Let's start with the best of:

1. Crop Yields

2. Non-GMO grain demand

3. Updating GPS equipment, including precision pesticide application

4. Automated/Remote irrigation equipment

5. Seed supplies replenished

This year brought good yields, especially compared to 2012. It wasn't record breaking for us, but very solid and above average. It was also nice to see demand for Non-GMO crops continue to rise.

Favorable growing conditions also replenished seed stocks. (Though, I do question why seed prices are rising with good supplies and a depressed grain market.)

We also updated our GPS guidance equipment this year. In the process we added swath control to our sprayer to reduce overlap and save chemicals. One of the best decisions this year was to fully remote-automate some irrigation equipment away from the home farm. This was a great time saver, I plan on doing more next year.

On the other hand

Now for the worst of:

1. Decline in grain prices

2. Farm bill compromise failure

3. Long lasting harvest

4. Dealing with crop insurance

5. Reduced ethanol mandate

Tied directly to the good grain yields is the decline in grain prices. It does appear to be overdone, as gross revenue per acre is now taking a hit. Also, harvesting more grain led to a drawn out, tiring harvest.

We all know this has been the least productive congress in a life time (though enacting fewer laws may not be a bad thing), it would be nice if they could get together on the big stuff in a timely manner.

I have also had issues with crop insurance. They decided to come back three years later and revise some of my yields downward. I've been fighting this, but have yet to find anyone with some common sense in the company or RMA (the federal watchdog).

Fortunately, the reduced ethanol mandate will have little impact on 2014, as ethanol is very profitable at current corn prices.

Now, here's what I’m thinking about for 2014:

1. Where are grain prices going?

2. What is the mix of corn and soybeans going to be?

3. Will congress ever get together on a farm bill?

4. Will the section 179 depreciation limits be raised?

5. What will happen to land rents/value, inputs, and machinery value with decreased revenue?

Most everything on this list is directly related to the farmer's pocket book. Apprehension and nervousness are abundant in the farm community. In some locations- cash flow is already below the cost of production. Only time will work out these details.

We do know one thing about the future: people still have to eat!