The Benefits of Sound Science
Summer in rural North Carolina is a celebration of life. When days get longer, rural residents enjoy rope swings, cookouts, Fourth of July celebrations, vacations, and fellowship with family, friends and nature.
Farmers can count on summer to be busy, hot and full of hard work, but they cannot rely on much else when it comes to raising their crops and livestock. They have to deal with volatility in the weather, markets, government programs and other uncontrollable factors when making business decisions.
In the world of uncertainty in which farmers operate, sound science brings stability into their lives. When farmers can make investment and production decisions based on reliable science, their farms are more likely to prosper and continue operating.
Public and private investment in agricultural research is critical to providing farmers with better tools to deal with production and market influences. This is one reason Farm Bureau is urging state lawmakers to help fund the Plant Sciences Initiative at North Carolina State University.
The initiative will help grow North Carolina agriculture into a $100 billion market, while assisting farmers in their efforts to increase crop yields, extend the growing season, manage drought conditions, and use water and pesticides more efficiently.
During the past eight years, commodity prices have been volatile, while input costs have trended upward. Corn and soybean prices hit highs in late 2007 and early 2008; they fell over the next couple of years, but again spiked in 2011 through the first of 2013. This volatility, over a relatively short period of time, was due to increased demand for feed grains in foreign markets, as well as U.S. production changes in the Midwest due to the drought of 2012 and other supply and demand influences.
Corn farmers saw their returns rising and falling over a short period of time, while livestock and poultry farms saw feed costs soar and retreat over the same period. This “new normal” pattern of volatility will likely continue, making it more difficult for farmers to plan for the next month, much less the next year.
If farmers can better control or predict volatile situations and growing conditions, they should also be able to better control their incomes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts farm income will fall by 32 percent this year. Can you imagine having to reduce the family budget by 32 percent this year, while your expenses continue to increase?
– Larry Wooten