Cyndi's Two Cents

The numbers are not wrong


John Perkins, the Commodity Market Reporter for Brownfield was on the telephone when I walked past his desk in the newsroom Tuesday morning.  By the pained expression on his face it was clear that he was not engaged in a joyful conversation.  I heard John say into the phone “I’m sorry, ma’am.  Those numbers are not wrong.”

John’s desk is just a few feet from my office door, so I heard him gently hang up his phone, sigh, and sit quietly for a few minutes.  John has worked for me for more than 15 years, so I know him pretty well.  I waited for him to come into my office to tell me about the call.

The woman on the phone had told John that he made a mistake in his reporting of the cattle markets.  The prices, she explained, could not possibly be that low.  She was frustrated and a little angry and had taken it out on the bearer of the bad news.

“There is absolutely no way anyone can afford to stay on the farm if what we grow has so little value that we practically give it away.”

As John repeated the caller’s words, they rang true to me. I recalled the conversation I’d had with my husband the evening before.  That morning he had picked up 5 gallons of hydraulic fluid for the tractor, 5 gallons of engine fluid, 2 boxes of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), a fuel filter, 2 tubes of grease and a bottle of hand cleaner.  The total was a little over $240.

Another stop Jim had made that morning was to deliver a 5-year old cow in good flesh to a local sale barn. She brought $849.

My husband and I were discussing the time and expense associated with keeping buckbrush, thistles, locust seedlings, cedar sprouts and multiflora rose bushes controlled in pastures and hayfields while we set live traps for the large rodents (raccoons) that have deemed our corn/oat feed mix their own.  Jim recalled the days when he and his high school friends could trap and sell raccoons for $35 – $50 apiece.  They are worth nothing today.

“At least if we had that outlet available to us it would help pay for the lost or spoiled feed, the traps and the time invested in keeping rodents at bay,” he said.

I laughed.  “Since when did we start figuring our time into the profit and loss on our farm?”

None of that which I’ve written here comes as a surprise to most of you reading it.  It is a challenging time for most farmers.  Returns are slim compared to the cost of production.  We’re dealing with damage done previously by the sharp edges of regulations, tax burdens and inflation that cut many so deep the bleeding will not stop until no blood remains.

Stress is high. It is easy to become discouraged and anxious.

Know this:  the world will always need agriculture.  How and where that food is grown and who raises it in the future is yet to be determined.  If we want to be a part of that we must stop fighting amongst ourselves over politics and production practices.

We must turn up the volume of a collective voice if we are going to be agents of change.


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