Looking Forwards and Backwards

Over winter Carolina-Virginia Farmers dwell on fortunate 2012 season, while planning ahead.

Published on: Dec 26, 2012

Art Bradley, Edgecombe County N.C. Extension director, is upbeat about farming this year, about the yields that were made and the profits that were cleared.

"Overall, we're coming out of a really good year, about the best we could hope for," he says. "Just about all our crops yielded very well and sold very well. And that is just a hard combination to come up with. Usually, if we have good yield the prices aren't very good. If we have good prices we have a difficult time making a good crop."

Of course, there are some exceptions to every rule. He notes a few tobacco farmers in his area suffered some hail damage in July on tobacco: a few corn producers came in with an average yield.

BETTING ON IRRIGATION: Despite droughts across much of the country this year, many Carolina-Virginia farmers had good moisture and made good yields. That kind of good fortune cant last, however, so a significant number are installing irrigation as a hedge against dry periods. Still, some will ironically tell you their irrigation pays off most "when we dont have to run it."
BETTING ON IRRIGATION: Despite droughts across much of the country this year, many Carolina-Virginia farmers had good moisture and made good yields. That kind of good fortune can't last, however, so a significant number are installing irrigation as a hedge against dry periods. Still, some will ironically tell you their irrigation pays off most "when we don't have to run it."

"Everything else has been great," he quickly adds. "We've had great peanut yields and cotton yields have been tremendous. Overall, tobacco yields were good this year and bean yields were very good."

Farmers in the Carolina-Virginia region were spared the harsh drought that affected Midwest growers. That drought drove prices up and benefitted farmers who had good weather and could take advantage of the market. Many Carolina-Virginia farmers did benefit.

Still, they're not forgetting that on the sandy soils of the coastal plains states enough moisture can be hard to come by. Some are pressing ahead to add irrigation, Bradley says, and even more would do so if they had access to irrigation water sources.

"We've seen some center pivots go in in the last year or two so there have been strides made in that area," Bradley says. And the growers that have irrigation don't regret their decisions.

"A few growers I've talked with tell me the year irrigation pays most is when they don't have to run it," Bradley says. "…They can make a better crop when they have natural rainfall, versus trying to run irrigation to keep a crop surviving until they get some rain."

In those situations growers don't have to expend fuel or electricity to get the water on their crops, either. On the other hand, Bradley says growers who have irrigation have the peace of mind of knowing they have a better chance to make a decent crop when a drought does hit them.