Arrivederci, 2022! I’m glad to see you go.
It’s been a bit of a rough one. The economy is in the pits, fuel prices are all over the board, supply chain issues are still ongoing, feed and fertilizer prices are up, cattle prices aren’t great, avian flu is setting records and interest rates are climbing. We can’t forget about the drought and hay prices. Personally, it’s been an up-and-down year for me as well, so I’m glad to get 2022 behind me.
Economists predict a pick-up in commodity production in the new year, but farm income is projected to fall in 2023 and 2024. The official forecast for farm income won’t come out until February, so it’s a wait-and-see game.
Among the bright spots for the new year are projections of strong consumer demand and an expectation that cattle prices will climb in 2023 and 2024. Until we get into the new year, however, it’s all just speculation.
There will be a new farm bill in 2023. The current one expires in September 2023, but work is underway on the new legislation. Hopefully, those in Washington, D.C., representing farmers and ranchers back home, will draft a fair bill for all involved. I have some concern brewing about Sen. Cory Booker in 2023. The representative from New Jersey is the first vegan to be a member of the Senate and House Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. He’s already stumping on putting an end to “factory farming” and has lots of backing from anti-agriculture and animal-rights groups. He’s calling for “factory farming” to end based on a matter of “public health” and “racial justice.” I haven’t found his definition of a “factory farm,” and a quick internet search brought up about 15 different definitions (all from animal rights web pages). If his provisions are added to the Farm Bill, it will hit a lot of family farms. I don’t get the stance on shutting down farms, but there will be many unhealthy and hungry people of all races, colors and creeds if these groups get a little more traction. I don’t see the target on the backs of farmers and ranchers going away in 2023.
It may be conversational for some, but 2023 may be the time for producers who have been reluctant to look at programs offered by the USDA through the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service. These are programs with funding and services made possible by your tax dollars.
Yes, there is paperwork. Yes, you will have to answer some questions. Yes, you may have to change a few things, but ask yourself if it will be worth it in the long run. And no, you do not give up control of your farm. Funding to help buy hay, fencing cost shares, information about keeping groundwater safe, improving fields and pastures, or expanding your current operation might be worth calling your local USDA office. On the state level, many grants and programs can help with going organic, developing specialty crops, and assisting producers in getting into direct marketing.
Today, farmers and ranchers must do what they can to keep their operations viable and, hopefully, make a decent living. Don’t look at programs and incentives as handouts. These agencies are there to help, and farmers need all the help they can get these days.
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]