Surviving The Times
HEBRON- Following a couple of good years, local farmers are feeling the same economic squeeze as everyone else. But, it's still worth it. "I love it, or I wouldn't do it," said local farmer Ed Parrish, who was harvesting soybeans Monday afternoon in a field near Lakewood High School. Corn experienced a meteoric rise in price as expensive gasoline popularized ethanol. But as the demand and price for crude oil falls, so does the price of corn. Soybeans experienced a drop in price recently as well, said Parrish.
And it doesn't stop there. He said farming is a loan-based industry. Farmers borrow money at the beginning of the season to fund planting, in anticipation of-the farmer hopes-reaping a profit during harvest. With all the banks collapsing, achieving those loans is difficult, particularly when planting one acre of crops costs hundreds of dollars. "It'll be a real challenge to fund that. The banks don't want us," said Parrish. "It's too much risk in one place." The price of seed and fertilizer grows quickly, he said, as does the price of feeding livestock.
Farmers seek loans through specialized agencies like Farm Credit Services of Mid-America. Financial Services Officer Roger Smith, who works from Farm Credit Services' Utica office, believes farmers who are on consistently firm financial footing will weather the nation's current financial crisis. Those who are disorganized with marginal or poor credit-maybe not. "If people are struggling, they'll struggle a little bit more," he said. But the good news is Smith's agency still accesses the lending resources it needs to provide loans to established farmers with a successful track record. He said he's provided farmers with loans since 1981, and for many of his clients, tough times are nothing new. "The people who have worked to get themselves positioned, they're going to be okay," said Smith. "They've encountered this before."
Smith said it's a very exciting time for farming, despite the challenges. The weak overseas dollar is actually good news for exporters, and new technology is improving crop yields. "They all come with a cost," he said. Smith isn't sure how long the economic crunch will last, but for the most part he remains optimistic.
According to a United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service report issued Oct. 14, Ohio 2008 corn and soybean production forecasts are down from last year. Based on conditions as of Oct. 1, Ohio's average corn yield is forecast at 147 bushels per acre, down five bushels from the previous month's forecast. Total grain production is forecast at 463.05 million bushels, down 14 percent from last year's state production total. Corn growers expect to harvest 3.15 million acres in 2008, compared to 3.61 million acres harvested one year ago. Based on administrative data, planted acreage is estimated at 3.35 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate. National corn production is forecast at 12.2 billion bushels, up one percent from last month, but seven percent below 2007.
According to the federal statistics, the 2008 average soybean yield for Ohio is forecast at 38 bushels per acre, down four bushels from last month's forecast and nine bushels below the 2007 average state yield. Total state production is forecast at 174.04 million bushels, down 13 percent from 2007. Harvested acreage is forecast at 4.58 million acres, up 340,000 acres from last year. Based on administrative data, planted soybean acreage is estimated at 4.6 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate.
Nat ional ly, soybean production is forecast at 2.98 billion bushels, up two percent from the September forecast and up 11 percent from last year. If realized, this will be the fourth largest soybean production on record.
Photos & Story by