I do not think that the average person understands that almost every type of tangible product we use on a daily basis starts on a farm. The steaks we eat, the peanuts and almonds we enjoy with friends, the clothes we wear, the milk we drink — it all starts on the farm and lies in the hard and stressful work of the families of production agriculture.
So, it is extremely important that we shed light on what these people go through regularly and make it known that we appreciate and value the hardships they endure to make sure we can eat. It is also just as crucial that we understand the stress and impact this industry has on its patrons and make the public aware that this, without a doubt, is not an easy way of life.
There are several factors that contribute to the stressful environment that is production agriculture. I have worked with commodities for the past five years. My interaction with farmers has shown me exactly how much futures prices impact their way of life. For instance, back in the early 2000s, corn prices were at incredible highs. With certain basis levels, they were receiving anywhere from $7 to $8 per bushel. Today, as I sit here typing this, corn is anywhere from $3.78 to $4 per bushel. The average farmer delivers around one thousand bushels per load of corn. So, back in the early 2000s, a farmer would receive between seven and eight thousand dollars per truck load. If they were to deliver today they are looking at about three to four thousand dollars per load. That is a loss of about four thousand dollars per load, and when you are raising thousands of acres of the crop, you can see the amount of money that has been reduced for these farmers.
The tough thing is they have no control over the market. There are so many factors that push the market up or down. It’s almost like playing the lottery each day, hoping to score big. This major drop in price doesn’t just affect grain farmers; the price of milk has been devastating for many dairy farmers all over the world. Many have even had to sell or shut down their operations. This is not something that comes easy to hard-working people.
While the main contributing force to the industry is indeed the price that producers receive, you have to also look at other outside forces. For instance, I have seen the devastation fires have caused farmers down in Kansas and Oklahoma. Miles and miles of burnt pasture, cows burned to death, fences destroyed, and houses lost. This was something that every rancher out there couldn’t have predicted, yet it happened and they had to face the pain and continue to rebuild. Animals are also living creatures — just like us their health can be unpredictable. I remember one of the farmers I interacted with often said he goes to bed every night worrying whether or not he will wake up to a devastating storm that knocks his crop out, a fire or disease that affects his livestock, or even the bank denying him a loan to purchase valuable inputs to the operation.
Production agriculture, at all realms, is something to be respected and celebrated. These people feed the world, and without them we would not be able to live. Their job is a 24/7 365-days-a-year effort. It is stressful and unpredictable, yet these folks suit up every day for battle, accepting what is to happen as part of the process. It is their way of life, their livelihoods on the line each and every day.
So, if you see a farmer remember to say thank you. Their way of life is hard. The phenomenal thing is that their passion and love for it keeps them hanging in there, through the stress and rough times. So, to the farmers who will read this, THANK YOU.