Jennifer Carr - Barton County KSRE
We all know that you go to the grocery store to buy food and most understand that many people have worked very hard to get that food there. But not everyone realizes that the majority of ingredients in good wholesome foods such as bread, cakes and hamburgers come from farmers. When we see those bumper stickers that say “If you ate today thank a farmer” we need to do that.
As grocery prices rise we worry about our food dollars getting stretched further and further. But do you understand why grocery prices may go up? Have you considered all the factors that go into crop production that may affect the cost of producing corn, wheat, alfalfa or other commodities?
Farmers do not get to make the final determination of the price they receive for their crops. Factors out of the local farmers control affects the price that they are offered for their commodity; weather, supply from other areas, or demand from manufacturers.
A farmer does not get to say I spent this much money to produce one bushel of wheat so I need that plus two more dollars per bushel to pay for my time. They see the advertised price at the local elevator and they decide to sell or wait to see if it goes up and hope that it does not go down. Some predict what their yield will be three to four months before harvest and contract a price then hope the weather does what it is supposed to so they have a crop.
Let’s look at the weather; having been in a drought this past year has provided higher commodity prices for cereal grains but has also increased the cost for producers while still limiting yield. Having a mild winter has been nice for people who do not want to shovel snow for three months but the early warm temperatures have set farmers up for increased cost and potential disaster if the weather takes a turn to the north and we get a cold snap.
Much of the wheat is already jointed which means the head is forming and putting the kernels in place. This is happening about two weeks earlier than normal. If we get a late freeze in April depending on the severity this can damage the crop, lowering yields or completely destroy it.
Alfalfa producers are already seeing the presence of the alfalfa weevil larvae in their fields. This requires a pesticide application to prevent the weevil from ruining their crop. Most alfalfa farmers spray at least once a year and budget that into their yearly plan. With the mild weather the alfalfa weevils are showing up earlier and will probably require two sprayings this growing season which will just increase cost. You may be thinking well I eat flour but not alfalfa so the weevils should not affect my groceries. Do you eat beef or lamb? Alfalfa is a component of most beef and lamb diets so there can be a trickle down affect to you the consumer as well.
It never ceases to amaze me how much chance a farmer takes each year. I asked my Dad one day if he wanted to go to the casino and he said no “I gamble everyday, I’m a farmer”. This is such a true statement, they have faith that if they do everything right then Mother Nature will allow them to produce a commodity to help feed people. So we need to remember if each time we eat to thank a farmer.