Farmers Weekly rounds up a year’s news through the eyes of farmers across the globe. Today we hear from Andrew Bowman in the US
Andrew Bowman farms 971ha of corn and soya bean in Illinois, USA.
The theme of agriculture here is uncertainty. This will be remembered as the year that Mother Nature asserted her dominance over modern agriculture, providing the worst drought in more than 50 years.
Most farmers were hurt dramatically, with corn yields down by 50-90%. Soya beans benefited from Hurricane Isaac’s late-August rains and yields were cut by only 0-25%.
Population 312 million
Average rainfall (in Illinois) 1,020mm
Agricultural area 405m ha
The world’s largest producer of maize at 257m tonnes and soya at 65m tonnes
Political uncertainty has further complicated farmers’ lives. The Farm Bill, which ended on 31 September, provides subsidies to producers and consumers. Some are more distorting than others – corn and soya bean much less than sugar and cotton, for example. Crop insurance – a government-subsidised partnership with private industry – has worked magnificently this year in the drought, but is being targeted for reform.
Our recent presidential election showed the US has evolved into a fight between taxpayers and tax consumers. The result of government policy is a cheap dollar, weak interest rates, a stagnant economy and a boom in agriculture – people want to own hard commodities such as gold and farmland.
Rents are eclipsing $500/acre (£310/acre) and land is more than $14,500/acre (£9,000/acre) – both more than twice what they were in 2005. Input costs are higher now than gross revenues 10 years ago. These are “golden times” but will financial success continue in light of Mother Nature, “Big Brother” and the push-pull volatility of markets?