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Oregon County Extension offers "Farm Focus"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scott Brown, an Agriculture Professor at the University of Missouri, told Oregon County farmers that, even with plenty of rain next summer, they will face some challenges recovering from this year's drought. [Order this photo]
The Oregon County Extension Office held its first "Farm Focus," on Monday, Oct. 22, to help local farmers learn about methods of recovering from the drought and what to expect in the coming months.

Agronomy Specialist, Sarah Kenyon said, "We invited everyone here tonight to learn about how the drought will impact Missouri Agriculture." Scott Brown, Research Assistant Professor for the Agriculture and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri, talked to Oregon County farmers about farm life after the drought.

"We are in unchartered territory when you start thinking about the drought that we have had in 2012. Missouri was ground zero for the drought. We were set up for a very tough situation when you take the lack of rainfall and heat that came with it," said Brown. Based on research, Missouri was one of the hardest states hit. "Corn, hay, soy beans, you name it, and we fell a lot harder in the state of Missouri than nationally," said Brown.

"I wish I had a better idea of what 2013 has in store, but I have a few ideas of what you should be watching." Soy bean meal prices have peaked, at not quite $500 a ton and it has come down some. The soy bean meal crops is something that if it continues to grow, prices will go down further.

The USDA estimated that there would be 14 billion bushels of corn, but due to the drought, there was only 11 billion. Brown said that still seems like a lot, but a lot was needed due to the demand for corn. "We are still extremely tight when it comes to corn," added Brown.

The drought has caused farmers to wonder which crop to go with when planting in the spring. The choices of corn, soy bean and sorghum were discussed along with possibly planting a small crop. If the dry weather persists into the spring, it could turn into a tough situation for crop mix.

According to Brown, the first real shot at getting feed costs to come back down is the planting being done in South America. Record levels of corn and soy beans are set to be planted in places like Brazil. In 2005, 205 million acres of hay, soy beans and wheat crops were grown in this country, and now it's roughly 230 million acres. A lot of that is grown in Southwest Missouri and in the Dakotas. Luckily, the Dakotas saw significant rainfall this year.

Brown asked the audience, "So, did anyone have to pay a little more for hay this year?" The crowd laughed and Brown proceeded to say that hay production has been sliding. "I don't think we are going to see a lot of hay acreage come back, as we look over the next couple of years, because of the strong pull of corn and soy beans," said Brown. There was a million acre decline in hay and pasture in Missouri this year. Brown predicts that hay prices will continue to stay high.

A concern from the audience was, "What if we have another bad year in 2013, and corn prices go up to $10.00?" Brown replied, "If we have back to back bad years, and unless South America does something phenomenal, we'll have higher than $8.00 corn."

Next spring or summer, if the crop is already short, old crop corn will come at a premium. In the middle of the summer, corn prices could be at an all-time high, even though an average crop is planned for harvest. Brown suggested keeping an eye on the market in the last 30 to 60 days of planting season, because that is the time when supply could appear low. "If we have back to back drought summers and we go 100 bushels for two years in a row, hang on," said Brown.

Brown said the biggest risk with exporting beef or corn is the appreciation of the dollar. "I'm not saying the dollar will appreciate anytime soon, but I don't think we'll continue to see the depreciation we have seen over the last seven or eight years in U.S. dollar. That has been extremely helpful for us in a number of key markets where, although we are at a near record of beef prices in our country, many countries haven't seen that record."

Logan Wallace, Livestock Specialist for Howell County Extension Office was also on hand to discuss the effects of heat stress on reproduction. Kenyon, also gave tips on what to do if your land is swarmed with fire ants.

If a colony of fire ants becomes established in Missouri, the economic impacts could be devastating. The ants can attack livestock, wildlife, and even humans. These ants are attracted to electricity and can block power outlets. In Texas alone, the cost of controlling fire ants is estimated to be $1.2 billion each year.

"Red imported fire ants have been detected in hay purchased from the south-eastern US. Two cases have been confirmed thus far, and one case is waiting on positive identification. However, it is highly likely that multiple cases exist," said Kenyon. Pesticides are available to control the spread of fire ants. For information on fire ant control, contact the county extension office.

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