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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Farm Economy Plateau

I was reading several articles today about where the farm economy is headed.  Experts agree that land prices are due to level off, but at the same time land continues as a good investment.  Kind of a conflict there.

Corn production prices are expected to push $4 per bushel next year.  With prices just above that level, how do you make a go of it?  What about expansion?  Is this a good time to lay back a bit and see where this economy is headed before renting any more high priced land?  Rents may not drop as fast as land prices.  With counter cyclical payments looking like they are out the window, can farmers remember how to make a go of it operating at near break even levels? 

What inputs can you cut back on?  Many have taken advantage of good prices and good insurance coverage to update machinery.  That may pay off now.  With resistant weeds looming, can you cut back on weed control?

Where are your fertility levels?  Fertilizer prices are down, but the best investment is probably in a good soil management and testing program.  If your fertility levels are in good shape or maybe even a little bit high, it may make sense to cut back.  The only way to know is to have the fertility data.  Data more than two years old is suspect in my mind.  If you are thinking of cutting back on nitrogen, you might one to use the N-Rate Calculator to see what might be reasonable to spend.  I would not rely on the calculator alone.  Soil nitrate testing and chlorophyll sensors can also help in decision making.  In addition, consider environmental factors.  A wet spring can play havoc on fall applied nitrogen.  The most economical application method is sidedressing.

As we head into a new year, the challenges of farming are present as always. 

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