Farming is a tough business. I’ve been around agriculture all my life and it seems as though one sector or another is always hurting.
Right now, grains and oilseeds (crops grown for their oil such as soybeans, canola, sunflowers etc) farmers are enjoying record high demand for their crops – and the high prices to go along with that. By comparison, livestock farmers are struggling to make ends meet as the high crop prices have driven up the cost of feed. There are other problems plaguing the livestock sector too, but the rapidly sky-rocketing feed prices are certainly a contributing cause.
Only a few short years ago, roles were completely reversed. Livestock farmers were enjoying high prices for their cattle, hogs and sheep, supported by cheap feed – and cash crop farmers were having trouble making ends meet because the prices they were getting for their crops barely (if at all) covered what it cost to grow them in the first place.
Besides being at the mercy of world markets and consumer demands when it comes time to sell your product, there are many other factors that can come between farmers and a stable income. On the livestock side, disease is a constant threat that can make the difference between a good year and a bad one. And on the crop side, the big unknown is nature itself: too much or too little rain, storms, diseases and pests are constant threats.
Livestock farmers have been working hard to convince the government, and by extension the public, of the crisis in the beef and pork sectors. But the average consumer does not distinguish agriculture along commodity lines the way those of us in the industry do. And right now, consumers are being hit with rising food costs – especially for diet staples like bread and pizza, and the constant talk of the ethanol/bio-fuel boom makes it hard to convince them that not everything is rosy in the farming world.
Ultimately, what goes up must come down, but as always seems to be the case in agriculture, it will be too soon for some farmers and not soon enough for others.