Hope Still Springs Eternal

Hoosier Perspectives

Not that first person has said 'I quit'

Published on: October 17, 2011

People have called in about poor yields. Others have told me about poor yields when I asked. Once in a while someone says the yield is better than they expected. But they almost always follow it with 'But's it's still two-thirds to three-fourths of what that field has made in the past.'

Meanwhile, I've spent time with a family that lost the majority of their equipment and key storage and shop buildings in a fire. I've even seen the pictures of the fire on Christmas Eve morning last year, and later the pictures of what was left of a once immaculate combine and other tools in the rubble of a devastating fire.

I've listened to people tell me that corn and soybean prices are going to be so high that they can't make it with livestock. As of now, those prices have actually retreated, so the livestock people are relatively quiet at the moment.

Quite often I hear from livestock interests who are not happy that the ethanol industry gets a tax break or an incentive, however you want to look at it, and they don't. The incentive helps them stay in business, competing with the livestock producers for corn, and driving up prices, especially when corn supplies are tight.

I've heard about some of the highest fertilizer prices since a couple of years ago, when they peaked at record levels. Yet I've seen fertilizer applied on fields already this fall. Propane prices are $2 per gallon and volatile, but farmers are still drying corn rather than risk high field losses.

And last but certainly not least, I've heard about stories of $400 cash rent in central Illinois, and farmers in Indiana with questions about how they can convince their landowners to try an alternative lease instead of raise their prices. In the first place, this is not central Illinois. If someone thinks they can make a profit paying that kind of money on some of the best ground in the world, more power to them. While our rights are dwindling, it is still at this moment a free country with a capitalistic society, more or less.

If someone offered or asked that for land in Indiana, sorry, I think a physiological examination might be in order. We don't have the yields to support such far- out numbers. Current prices don't support those numbers. Record high input costs and the increasing cost of new and bigger machinery certainly don't support those numbers.

There's even one person who's figured out major manufacturers are close to discontinuing six-row model combines, once the hallmark of 1,000 to 1,500 acre farmers. They want to know who is going to build equipment for them. There's not a clear answer, other than the used market.

Despite all these questions, all this uncertainty, all this concern, I have yet to have one person tell me, or to have heard one person say, or read in print, the two simple words: I quit!

Instead, I've heard people say how crop insurance will cover costs so they can go again. Others will make some money off specialty crops. Tenants are scrambling to propose alternative, flexible leases to landowners and hope they'll be sensible.

In short, the Hoosier never give-up spirit that made Indiana what it is at work this year. There's always next year. If farmers weren't willing to roll the dice again, they wouldn't be farmers in the first place.

So we expect every field to get planted next spring, most by the same people who planted them this year.  In the end, Hoosier common sense and ingenuity will prevail. Some may have to postpone a land improvement or purchase they wanted to make, or maybe a vacation, until they at least see how things shake out. But in the end, farmers will farm next year.

We'll be here to report it, offer tips, and ride the highs and lows of another season with you. Pretty soon 2011 will be old news, and I doubt if too many will mourn its passing. All eyes will be on 2012. Hope springs eternal in Indiana farm country. May God bless each one. May God bless Indiana.