FARMER FOCUS: Any help from Congress in 2014?

With 2013 over, I’ll say I wouldn’t mind another year like it.

We started the year in drought and for much of it we were too dry, but during the three weeks that are usually the hottest and driest part of the summer, we had cool and wet conditions and strong soya bean and cattle prices. It had its fair share of challenges, but the rewards made up for all of them.

Looking ahead to 2014, there are reasons for both optimism and pessimism. On the side of optimism, we have an improved water situation – although the entire state is now back into at least “abnormally dry” on the drought monitor – low-interest, decent prices for soya beans and fantastic prices for cattle.

On the side of pessimism are numerous forecasts for lower grain prices, not just for 2014 but beyond. The worst-case senario predicted was soya $6.55/bushel(£148/t) and corn below $3 (£72/t) by 2017. With input costs the way they are those prices would really be disastrous.

Another wild card is the fact Congress has not passed any kind of farm bill. Most have accepted there will be no more annual direct payments, but what is yet to be seen is if we will have a good “safety net” in the way of some type of offsetting payment if grain prices fall below a certain level, and what will happen with crop insurance. It is very clear that our government is not concerned about the farm vote anymore. I think we can expect more regulation with very little aid from here on.

I’m not much for resolutions, I do have a few goals for the year ahead. For 2014 I’d like to get the rest of the arable ground grid-sampled and put on the variable rate fertiliser programme and turn a small profit and survive to farm again in 2015. If 2014 is anything like the previous 27 years I have farmed, there will be some nice surprises along the way, and some problems I haven’t faced before.

Here’s hoping for a profitable, healthy and safe year of farming on both sides of the water.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land in Greenwood county, Kansas, America, of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay

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