Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Farmers Just Don't Know What Else To Do


Illinois farmer David Erickson admits that what he and many U.S. farmers are about to do doesn’t seem to make much sense. With bulging stockpiles of corn and soybeans left over from last year’s harvest, they’re planting more in 2016 -- even though the crops probably won’t be profitable.
“It’s hard to get your head around the idea of doing something that you know will lose money, but I don’t have much choice,” said Erickson, who plans to sow 1,740 acres of soybeans on his farm near Galesburg, up from 1,590 last year. He can’t afford to leave land fallow and needs revenue to pay bills.
After record prices in 2012 sparked a boom in output, corn and soybeans in the Midwest now fetch less than the cost to produce them, and U.S. farm income is headed for a 14-year low. While the market has improved in recent months, researcher AgResource Co. still estimates a $50 loss for every acre sown on average. As they seed more, growers have cut spending and hope better-than-normal yields will help them at least break even.
Farmers in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower, will expand corn planting to 89.998 million acres, up 2.3 percent from a six-year low in 2015, and soybeans will be sown on 83.07 million acres, the second-most ever, a Bloomberg survey of 33 analysts showed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will disclose its planting and stockpile estimates on Thursday...
Bigger harvests may compound a global surplus that sent prices plunging during the previous three years. Domestic corn inventories on March 1 were at 7.798 billion bushels, the highest for that date in 29 years, while soybean stockpiles touched 1.557 billion, up 17 percent from a year earlier and the most since 2007, according to a separate survey.
7.798 billion bushels? Holy fuck! So what are farmers thinking?  Well:
With few appealing options, David Seil chose to expand corn planting on his 1,300-acre farm near Gowrie, Iowa. Rather than sacrifice productive land by using it as pasture for his cattle, he’s cutting back on spending for seed and fertilizer and hoping that weather damages crops somewhere else so that prices go up. The arrival of La Nina weather patterns may increase the drought risk in the Midwest, and the government is forecasting higher temperatures this year.
Even the most crazy optimist farmer is hoping somebody else has a weather disaster.  We're screwed.

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