2015 was a tough year for agriculture

Is anyone sorry to see 2015 go?

Not me, even though we are entering an election year and those are always filled with, as Mark Twain put it so eloquently, “lies, damn lies and statistics.”

Even with the coming false promises, endless posturing and “taffy pulling,” to use another of Twain’s euphemisms for dishonesty, I will not miss 2015 much.

We did see an end to the four-year drought. But the conclusion came with monsoon-like rains, flooding, and significant damage to crops and property. Then drought set in again before fall brought more rain and additional crop damage.

Herbicide resistant weed problems got worse—in some cases so bad it was hard to pick out the cotton among the pigweed stands. Farmers had to spend significantly more per acre to control resistant weeds. Some went old-school, back to cultivation, rope-wick and hooded applicators, pre-emerge herbicides, even hoe hands to keep up with the weed pressure.

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Grain sorghum producers also had to spend more money to protect their crop. Sugarcane aphid, a pest not seen on grain sorghum until about three years ago, now threatens up to 90 percent of the Southwest sorghum acreage. Effective control is available, but insecticide applications add another cost to what’s usually considered an economical crop to grow.

As for economics, look where crop prices have gone. Everything is down; even the cattle market is taking a dip. Cotton and grain producers will struggle to hit breakeven yields this year. Few market observers expect the situation to improve much in coming months.

Farmers and ranchers wrestled a bit with new farm program signup in 2015 and many attended multiple education sessions to help figure out what program would be best—ARC, PLC, county program, how much insurance to buy, STAX?  And who is actively engaged?

Adjusting to a new farm program always comes with a steep learning curve but this one seemed to be more straight up than arcing.

It was a tough year. But farmers and ranchers are a tough lot, and we had an opportunity to meet and write about some who met every challenge with, if not eager anticipation at least with resignation that hard work and a bit of ingenuity would get them through. Most did.

They weathered the storms, endured the droughts, and mastered the intricacies of the new farm bill. Now, they’re making plans on what to plant and how to manage it in 2016.  They’ll be doing a little review of what worked and what didn’t in 2015. They’ll take into account all the things that went wrong or right that they had no control over and will accept that as just the nature of the business. They’ll pay a tad more attention to the things that went right or wrong that fall squarely into their wheelhouse and they’ll be looking for ways to capitalize on the good and to avoid the bad with this next crop.

And to all of you, we hope there’s a lot more good than bad and that 2016 brings fair weather, better prices and fewer pests. Happy New Year!             

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