Farmers are ‘eternal optimists’
It’s spring! Time to till the fields and plant the crops. Next to harvest time, this is one of the most exciting times to be a farmer.
However, as we all know, this is the winter that just doesn’t know when to quit.
While farmers would like to be out working the land, the equipment is still in the shed with fields that are either under snow, frozen solid or too wet. (Frozen dirt and equipment don’t mix very well and parts are expensive.)
U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist Brad Rippey said that in some parts of the Upper Midwest, soils are still near the freezing point.
“Frost depths go down five or six feet in some locations, almost historic frost depths,” Rippey said. “Soils are just not going to warm up, not going to be conducive to any early field work.”
Being unable to get into the fields isn’t helping the attitude of crop farmers who are already feeling less than optimistic about this year. The latest DTN/Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index shows the confidence of those growing crops is at the lowest level in four years.
Katie Micik, director of the confidence index, said, “Much of the crop producers’ attitudes about their current situation can be attributed to lower corn prices from the previous year, although current prices are at a level higher than what analysts had anticipated at this point for the year.”
At the same time, she said livestock producers are much more optimistic about 2014, with higher meat prices and more reasonable feed costs pushing their confidence level close to an all-time high.
Dale Nordquist, Extension economist in the University of Minnesota Center for Farm Financial Management, said, “Prices are projected to be strong for all major livestock sectors this year, and feed costs will be much lower, so livestock producers should have a very good year.”
Dairy farmers will also benefit from lower feed costs, and when combined with a strong export market, those milking cows are also looking at a better year with dairy product prices already at high levels.
It’s not included in the survey, yet the factor farmers have the least confidence in is the weather. Long-term forecasting is “iffy,” and for our part of the country, predictions call for stormy weather until the end of May, with moisture levels above normal.By June, the weather will change over to drier and hotter conditions, which will last until the end of August with the usual array of storms, hail and tornados mixed in.
Adding the uncertainty of national and world events, government decisions and natural disasters, you begin to understand why farmers are called the “eternal optimists.” Otherwise, the planter would never leave the machinery shed.