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LIFE ON THE FARM

By Staff | Feb 20, 2009

Divide and conquer. I don’t know who penned those familiar words, but they are compatible with “A house divided against itself cannot stand” – words in a speech Abraham Lincoln gave at a Republican convention where he was chosen as their candidate for Senate.

Right now division seems to be what’s happening in agriculture. It seems like we have quit being farmers, but are now producers of grain, beef, pork or poultry. All separate entities vying for their own interests.

This has become more and more apparent as one after another livestock groups have voted to ask Congress to repeal funding for ethanol.

Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

Ask most corn growers and they will say $7 corn wasn’t all that good to them. It has driven up rents, inputs and risks to all-time highs, to where the figure I now hear to breakeven is at $5. Corn is no where near that today as it is hovering near the $3.60 range on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Tenants were approached by landowners when corn was at its zenith demanding higher rents or else. Some have lost land that they have rented for 20 plus years, nourishing it, tending to its needs only to have it yanked by someone willing to pay higher rents.

If it is any consolation to livestock farmers, very few grain producers took full advantage of those record prices. If you recall, the news at that time was “can we produce enough corn?” Is there enough fertilizer?”

Any banker will tell you that there are livestock producers that made a million dollars at the same time, others are struggling. The story would be the same in the grain area.

We were all making decisions based on the news of the day. Corn was not sold, because just like rice, it was going to be scarce. It wasn’t just the grain producer, but livestock producers, the commodity funds, ethanol, sych as VeraSun, all got hit when unexpectedly the news changed and markets plummeted.

A lot of the emotion folks are expressing out there is based on greed and jealousy, which seems to be the driving factor behind the decisions made along with fear. Greed and jealousy seem relatively innocent, but the Bible has much to say about covetousness, listing it right along with other things you sure don’t want to be. One place to read it yourself is in 1 Corinthians 6: 9,10.

When the words from an apologetic banker, “sorry there is no more money” are heard, it is just the beginning of emotions we never thought we were capable of. They are real and don’t go away with a good night’s sleep.

We have to realize that what got us to this point are often events that are beyond our control. It isn’t a time to panic, because panicking is often creates more harm. Instead, take time to reflect, take stock of what you have and give thanks.

Then together rely on God to help you as a family work your way through this crisis. Things don’t usually change overnight, but believe me, miracles still happen.

If common sense were to return, we would realize that we as farmers need each other. Even when we are united, our numbers are minute. But divide us into a livestock man or grain farmer; it will be doubly hard to make our voice heard.

The livestock farmer needs the grains produced to feed his animals. The grain farmer needs the livestock man to purchase his grain and to buy back that nutrient-rich manure.

Instead of striving against each other, we really need to work jointly to regain the American consumer’s confidence and trust – a trust that has been consistently eroding away. Our bickering doesn’t do much to change that.

Just like we need each other, we also need consumers. At the same time we need to work together to rebuild export markets, which do make a big difference in our prices.

After all, most of us just want to make a reasonable living, work with our wife and children doing what we do best – producing food to feed America. Together all farmers feed the world.

Vander Schaaf is a Farm News staff writer from northwest Iowa. Reach her by e-mail at suncrest@netllcwb.net

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