No ‘down time’ for farmers
By GARY BROCK
“So,” people who don’t know what the life of a farmer is really like may ask, “what do farmers do during the winter between fall harvest and spring planting? Long vacation? Winter job? Catch up on TV?”
The truth, of course, is that the life of a farmer doesn’t end after harvest and start again in the weeks before spring planting. A farmer’s life is 365 days a year.
It is true that the winter months are different. But that is all. Just… different.
Any farmer will tell you that from the time they finish the fall harvest until the day they begin to prepare the fields for planting in early spring they are working on some farm-related project.
Maybe they are checking out new seeds, deciding what seeds will be best for the next season and what new hybrids are ready for the ground. Then they must place their seed orders. And they had better not wait until anywhere near the last minute or they might be out of luck. And they must order their fertilizer for the next year.
Then there is all the farm equipment.
Once harvest is done, the tractors, combines and other equipment isn’t just driven into a barn to sit for three or four months.
Winter is the time to do repairs on the trucks and tractors and equipment. It is time to order and install replacement parts. It is time to refurbish everything and “winterize” all of that expensive farm equipment. And all that tender loving care takes lots of time.
So the winter months may be as busy as any other time of the year for farmers.
COSTLY FARM BILL DELAY?
Speaking of winter issues, the failure to pass the expired federal Farm Bill may be costing to not only farmers but American consumers as well.
The Tampa Bay Tribune recently reported that milk prices per gallon could skyrocket if a new bill isn’t approved this winter.
When the Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, so did the Milk Income Loss Contract program. It was a safety net providing payments when national milk prices drop in contrast to feed costs. When the new farm bill did not pass this year, and the old one expired, the MILC program halted and was not replaced.
And the paper reported that this will impact dairy farmers across the nation.
The Tribune reports that without a farm bill by the end of this year, an old permanent law would take effect. The Congressional Research Service says the government would be man dated to set crop and milk prices at “parity” — the purchasing power of those crops in 1910–1914, when, according to a 1930s study, a farmer’s earning power and purchasing power were equal.
MILC, and other dairy support programs, have prevented imposition of parity. But it could be imposed in 2013 if a new farm bill isn’t passed.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that could raise the price of milk in stores to $6 a gallon. Here in southern Ohio it is about $3 a gallon average. The prices of milk, cheese and butter are all on the increase.
So let’s hope that after the election, Congress will return for a “lame duck” session and include in it’s priorities passage of a new federal Farm Bill. Partisan concerns stalled it this fall. Let’s hope that will be put aside after the November election.
(Gary Brock is Editor of ACRES of Southwest Ohio.)