Looking ahead

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It’s a new year, and like many folks, I wonder what 2022 holds for us. 

Will there be higher prices for our cattle and other livestock? Will dairy farmers get more money for their milk? Will there be bumper crops? Will we get enough rain, or too much? If I had a crystal ball, I would gaze into the future and let everyone know, but there is no way of knowing what’s ahead, and there are no promises in agriculture.

I try to be optimistic and a cheerleader, of sort, for farmers and ranchers in the Ozarks, but at times it can be hard to see the sunny side. Some ag economic experts say commodity prices paid to farmers will be a little higher in 2022. Supply chain issues will continue to be a headache, and the cost of being a farmer will continue to climb every day. Input prices, according to some economy speculators, will be 150 percent higher than in 2021. Have you checked out the price of fertilizer lately? It’s not pretty. 

However, as 2021 draws to a close, I see some bright lights on the horizon.

In the wake of COVID, more producers are looking at new ways to market their products directly to consumers, and it’s not just at farmers markets. As more consumers are reaching out to producers for local products, more are seeing this type of direct marketing makes economic sense in many ways. 

More farmers and ranchers are looking at niche markets. They see they might need to change things around a little to get into or keep their operation in the black. There always seems to be a bit of demand for products consumers can’t find “just anywhere,” so finding the right niche is essential.

More and more research is being done to help farmers and ranchers be more efficient and their operations more sustainable. We can all do things a little differently on our operations if it will help our wallets and the environment in the end. 

According to projections released in November by the USDS, exports of U.S. farm products are expected to be higher in 2021. The agency speculated for FY 2022, U.S. ag export sales will reach $175.5 billion – $2 billion lower than the August prediction but still $1.5 billion higher than the 2021 trade estimate. Beef export sales are estimated to increase by $800 million. Poultry export sales are also predicted to generate higher prices, to the tune of an  increase of $700 million in 2022, and dairy product exports could be $200 million more on higher volumes.

Total U.S. ag import sales in 2022 were raised to $165 billion — a $5.5 billion increase from the trade report released in August.

As we venture into 2022, we embark into a great deal of uncertainty. But, as farmers and ranchers, that’s nothing new. 

We don’t know what Mother Nature has in store for us from one day to the next. We don’t know if our babies coming this spring will hit the ground and thrive. We don’t know if forages and crops will grow, even if we do everything right. Some days, we can’t be sure if the truck or tractor will start in the morning, yet we still raise livestock and crops year in and year out.

Good luck in 2022, and remember, agriculture is a risk, but it’s a risk that provides for the world.

Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]

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