If you didn't want to take risk, face hardship and find yourself making hard decisions, you wouldn't be a farmer. If you're reading this, you're connected to agriculture in at least some way. In 2012, thanks to the topsy-turvy, notorious growing season, you will make a lot of decisions, even if you were one of the lucky producers who got rain and a decent crop. There are more that didn't get rain in Indiana than those that did.
Decisions are going to come at you one after the other, from this day forward. You may find it helpful to seek advice from experts on the area in which you must make the decision. If it's a crop production question, look to a consulting agronomist or to an agronomist with your fertilizer or ag retail dealership that you trust. If it's a seed question, most companies today have salesmen who know far more about hybrids and varieties than salesmen of 20 years ago did.
It could be a crop insurance question, or a question about taxes, estate planning, or, if you're lucky, which equipment to invest in and how look at next year. If you're not lucky, it may even be a doctor you need for stress help, or a counselor.
Here are 30 questions you might have to face, depending upon your situation. We don't have the answers. Seek out someone who can help, preferably an expert in each area. Don't forget that Purdue University Extension has people that can answer questions on many fronts.
- How soon should you harvest your crop?
- How far down should you dry corn? Should you use different drying procedures than you normally use when it's a cooler fall or corn is in better condition?
- Should you sell corn out of the field or store it, assuming it's not contracted?
- If you have contracts you can't fill, when should you pay them off?
- Should you till this fall or leave the limited residue on top?
- Should you still try to seed a cover crop?
- Should you apply less P and K since this year's crop didn't use it?
- Is it Ok to have soil samples pulled this fall if it's rained in your area?
- If you have to cut expenses due to a poor cop and limited insurance, what should you cut first?
- If you have good income and with potential tax changes, should you make investments in equipment? If so, how do you decide what?
- If you fear you can't pay your operating loan from 2012, what do you do?
- What angles can you sue to convince your landlords to go on shares in 2013?
- Should you consider selling 2013 and 2014 crop now? If so, how much? Do I swear off forward contracting because it didn't work this year?
- If the poor harvest is affecting mental health, even if you know you will survive financially, what should you do?
- What do you tell your kids if you're barely surviving and their friend's dad is having a good year, because you made a couple of decisions that went against you?
- How do you get past the trap of thinking next year will be like this year, and managing for another poor year instead of a good one?
- Which seed hybrids and varieties do you select? Do you base it on what looked good this year?
- If you haven't taken care of your estate plans yet, why should you do it now? Where do you start?
- How do you cover short-term cash flow crunches if you're relying on GRIP insurance which doesn't come out with payments until April or May?
- If you're in hogs, dairy or beef confinement, when do you decide you've taken a big enough bath and bail? How do you exit gracefully? Is it a temporary shutdown, or should it be permanent?
- If you've got plenty of forage because you chopped low-yielding corn, should you buy livestock?
- How do you decide whether to stay with a 50-50 rotation or go heavier on one crop or the other next year?
- Should you back off on corn population based on one year, or stick with your long-term plan?
- How do you adjust family budgets after one bad year – looking to future years?
- Should you apply fertilizer now, lock it in, or hope prices will drop by spring, especially for nitrogen?
- If your long-term philosophy is not to buy crop insurance, do you adjust it after this year?
- If you had crop insurance but only at average levels, how do you assess how much to have next year?
- If you're not sure you can hold on to all your land this year, but don't want to give up on farming, what are your options? If you give up land, which land do you let go?
- Weed control was tough this year. What can you learn from this year to take into next year?
- Soil compaction was an issue in 2012 but was sometimes lost in the shuffle once things went beyond bad to terrible. What can you do about compacted soils?
Just remember, no one ever promised you a rose garden in farming. But without challenges, would it really be as enjoyable? Good luck on wrapping up a strange year, and better luck next year, whatever your position on yields and income might be.