A neighboring farmer, who was also a good friend, told me the saddest day of the year for him was when those last cornstalks on the final rows of corn disappeared into the combine.
It meant there would be no more bushels for him to put in the bin.
I told that same neighbor the saddest day of the year for me was when I hauled the last of the corn from the last bin, because I would not have any more corn to sell and would have to wait until harvest to have anything to sell again.
When the bins go empty around here in late spring or early summer, spending dries up and by late-summer there is usually a shortfall in both rain and income.
And then when harvest begins and those first loads are hauled to town, contracts are filled and checks are being deposited again, pay day has arrived.
I still haven’t got used to watching the expenses that arrive each spring for putting in a crop that are like a tsunami in reverse as this massive wave of cash washes away into the distance.
Then in the fall a tsunami of cash returns as bins are filled, contracts are delivered, and if everything works out, income exceeds expenses.
It does seem to be a cycle of boom followed by bust each year.
When I signed my first mortgage in 1998, I figured as long as I could gross $300 an acre, I would be okay. If my gross fell to $250 an acre, then I could have problems.
That was when corn at $2 a bushel or less and yields were around 150 bushels an acre.
We depended on getting another 20 to 25 cents a bushel from the government in the form of a loan deficiency payment. Those LDP’s were an important part of farm income.
Then the ethanol plants were built, corn demand raised prices and the boom was on.
Expenses followed corn prices upward; higher gross income per acre was needed to keep even.
I believe it now takes $750 an acre for most corn growers to stay even.
What I once was hoping to gross is now the going rate for just land rent. Goodness.
If a person wants to even out the income flow through the year, adding livestock as additional income is a possibility.
My dad raised livestock which gave him a steady flow of cash because he usually was selling something, be it eggs, hogs, or cattle.
But it seems even the livestock business is subject to market swings. Just ask anyone who raises beef or pork in recent years.
Weather, market disruptions by those with large amounts of money they use to buy and sell commodities, government programs and decisions, are non-farm factors that can affect farm income.
That is in addition to weeds, plant diseases, and numerous pests that all want to live off the growing crop.
Farming has never been for the faint of heart.
It is an occupation that just because you put in many hours of work does not mean you will be rewarded in the final outcome.
Just showing up for work is not enough. Farming requires farmers to be at the top of their games all the time.
I don’t know of any farmer who would have it any other way.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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