Falling grain prices are putting the squeeze on farmers’ incomes heading into spring.
Wheat is selling at elevators for $2 less than at harvest time last year, and corn, beans, and milo are down considerably from last October.
On the other hand, crop inputs such as urea fertilizer have declined some but not to the same percentage as grain prices. Mike Thomas, manager of Cooperative Grain and Supply, said urea has dropped $150 to $200 a ton from the $600 it was in October.
Roger Bartel, 67, of Hillsboro has a small farm. He said if things got too bad he could quit, but he worries about how that would turn out.
“If I have a farm sale, who will want to buy my old stuff,” he said.
He still has some machinery and farm debt but figures he can keep going for now. His crop rotations will remain the same, but he won’t purchase new equipment.
Bartel has a small cow herd. He said feeder calf prices have strengthened some since they declined last fall. He will have a few head to sell this spring and next fall. He also has crop insurance, which will help pay expenses if crops are poor.
Farm insurance agent Jeff Cady said crop insurance would help farmers if prices continue to fall or stagnate and yields are down.
“Crop insurance is the most significant revenue tool out there,” he said. “We have had more farmers tell us how, especially in low price and low yield years, crop insurance didn’t make them money but it kept them in business.”
Marion County extension agent Ricky Roberts said the crafters of the latest federal farm program did not foresee sharp price declines.
“There may be a safety net out there, but not all that much money is left for payments to farmers,” he said. “However, at the end of the day, I believe there will be some help.
“Farming has big gross numbers, but it’s the net that counts. On paper, farming looks to be incredibly challenging. The question is, ‘What is it going to take to survive?’”
His office provides resources for financial counseling for farmers who get in trouble.