As we head towards the end of the year and celebrate Christmas, it’s a time for many to pause and reflect. With that in mind, let’s take a minute to review some of the events and happenings over the last year. This list is in no way complete or in order of importance.
• As we prepare to start January 2014, there still isn’t a Farm Bill, although according to reports, the House and Senate Conferees are close. Put aside the hysteria of $8 per gallon milk and reverting to 1940s farm legislation as that isn’t likely going to happen. What we are looking at is further trimming of farm supports, with the last real subsidies involved in crop insurance. Also likely to remain are incentives and help for conservation practices, help for young farmers, and other small programs but this is probably the end of any price support for commodities of any kind. It always pays to remember that the vast majority of money in the farm bill is SNAP, food stamps, and related nutrition programs. It appears that SNAP will remain coupled with farm legislation.
• The drought abated for most of Kansas after almost three years. While most of the state is rated abnormally dry, Kansas soil moisture is significantly better than a year ago. There were respectable winter wheat yields for much of the state and all but the western third of Kansas had good to excellent fall crops. Pasture, if not severely overgrazed, should see greatly improved forage production next year. Winter wheat overall is also in that range. If the models are correct, much of the state should see normal to above normal rainfall in 2014.
• Corn and grain prices, especially corn, have dropped significantly, especially in comparison to recent highs. While this benefits ethanol production, the corn syrup industry, and livestock feeders, it has taken a significant bite out of grain farmers’ profits. Most hay prices have also decreased to levels much closer to pre-drought prices. Soybeans have held their price much better but the promise of a bumper crop in South America, especially Brazil, portends lower bean prices.
• Demand for skilled work in the crop and livestock sectors continues to increase. As the level of sophistication in production increases as well as the value of inputs and outputs the need for trained workers is increasing.
• Water for irrigation was and will be a hot topic, especially where the water is in the Ogallala Aquifer. The Governor is proposing a pipeline from the Missouri River to Western Kansas but not without concerns from our neighbors. Expect more study and ideas regarding water use as much of the livestock industry in the state relies on irrigated grain for a significant amount of the grain it uses.
Naturally, there is more but that’s for next week’s column. Merry Christmas.