Farmer Focus: Difficult decisions as market conditions worsen

Wheat harvest is finishing in Kansas. I, thankfully, don’t have to deal with any, but my friends and neighbours will have put up nearly 10m metric tons in the past few weeks (nearly 25% of US production). 

This is actually a 100-year low as far as acreage goes for the crop.

The big questions now for growers are: how much to bet on rain (not likely)? Will we have an honest trading partner in China (hell will freeze first)? And should double crop (growing a second crop in the same season) soya beans be no-tilled into the wheat stubble?

See also: Coronavirus: What is the future of your farming business?

For the past 10 years, it has been an automatic decision to grow beans, but the price of beans is now below breakeven.

No crop welfare

There will also be no government crop welfare to bail out risky decisions. The cattle market has also turned for the worse.

The Covid-19 shutdowns slowed meat movement and backed up an estimated one million head of cattle. They have continued to gain weight as they wait to be slaughtered.

The packing industry continues to leverage the crisis and losses are several hundred dollars a head. Last week’s market-ready cattle made £1.60/kg liveweight.

This is 25% lower than a month ago and lower than the lows made in the height of the Covid-19 panic in April. I’ve heard more than one neighbour say “we should just quit”. 

Sell to a middleman

One option seems to be to grow beans and sell them at below breakeven prices to a middleman country, who will forward them on to China.

Alternatively, we can grow crops and livestock to feed Critical Theory (the belief that social problems are created more by social structures and cultural assumptions than individual and psychological factors) nuts that are burning their own cities to the ground here. 

Either way, Marxists cause fewer problems when they are hungry and the sentiment in rural Kansas is currently to help them get that way. 

There is still a reason to hold out that Trump will try to buy votes with another election-year bailout, but he is also a hard person to put any hope into.

Daniel Mushrush is a Farmer Focus writer from Kansas. Read his biography.