Today’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you’re staying warm.
End of the year so I’ve collected all the miles and hours from machinery and cars. Vehicle mileage has been down the last few years with Kelly working at home and my having less shows to work on.
My largest tractor; the one I use primarily for fieldwork, gained 48 hours. About average. And the other tractor that does planting, mowing, and snow moving was used 114 hours. Lawnmower got 34 hours of use, and the Gator, 50 hours and 241 miles, which equals 7 MPH which seems pretty slow on average. The 4-wheeler suffered as we drove the gator so much more. It only got 17 miles of use.
Let’s talk about money. Subsidies to farmers have been in the news lately and I thought some of you may have questions. It’s complicated and I won’t pretend to know all the answers or understand all the political maneuvering that may be going on (who does??) but I’ll tell you how it works for our farm.
Easy stuff first. I’ve talked about having land in the ‘CRP program’, The Conservation Reserve Program. I was working for the Farm Service Agency back in the 1980’s when this program was first created. Its point was always to take marginal land out of traditional row crop farming and get it into some sort of soil conservation program. The trick was, if you were already a fairly responsible farmer and keeping marginal land in grasses or hay, it wouldn’t qualify for the program. So it was sort of only benefiting the, shall we call them the ‘aggressive’ farmers, or the ones using poor soil practices. I don’t want to lump everyone in the same category, but that’s how it worked. The applying farmer would suggest the payment / acre he wanted in return. Maybe $200/ acre / year he would get back in return for not farming this land. And then the government determined what it could afford of the acres submitted and everything under, say $180/ acre was accepted. It was a pretty popular program with good intentions and millions of acres were accepted over the years. I think it’s been pretty popular and well done.
It was 2010 when I offered 14 acres to the program. By this point the rules had changed a bit. I enrolled 14 acres of really prime, flat, farmland. Some of the best on the farm. But it is low, next to Silver Creek, and some years it would be too wet to get planted, or planted late, or flooded out after planting, so I just never knew if it would make a crop or not. Putting it in CRP at least guaranteed a payment of $130 / acre. (The program had a preset price at this point) Less than a good crop, but more than it flooding out. And with no input costs (fieldwork, diesel, seed, fertilizer) it comes out alright. There are some maintenance costs; it’s the field we had burned last spring, and I mow it sometimes in the fall. I took out 3.5 acres when I renewed it for another 10 years. In 2020, I got $1,824 in CRP payments (14 x 130) and those come from the Federal Government.
Last year, 2020, I got $5,419.77 in subsidies (in addition to the CRP). It’s based on the acres of corn or soybeans we have reported to the FSA that we planted. (Not every crop gets a subsidy. Wheat might. Oats doesn’t) That was the year the former President cut soybean sales to China and crop prices all took a hit. There were several extra payments to make up for that. $5,400 is a lot of money and it really helped my farm cash flow and I’m a small farmer. It would be easy to see bigger farmers getting $54,000 dollars, however their expenses all have that extra zero on the end too. I’m sure there are people taking advantage of the system, but I don’t know how they do it.
I got $1,313 for CRP payments in October of 2021. I added a couple acres this year and all together, it’s paying $137 / acre / year. AND I got $17 as a signing bonus! Subsidy payments this year was $2,080.60. (Plus the CRP payment. AND the $17!) That money came back in April. Honestly, I’m not sure what it was for. They’re based on expected crop prices and usually come in two parts. I think this was part two of last years. Crop prices were better this fall so there wasn’t any extra payments.
The co-op prepared a spread sheet of next years expected prices on fertilizer and chemicals. It’s up significantly from this year. I’m prepaying everything to lock in prices now as they expect more instability and price increases come spring. (Normally I just prepay a few things) I paid $1000 for anhydrous nitrogen in 2021. It’s projected to be $7,000 for 2022. A few chemicals are down a bit, but most are way up. My total projected costs, including the coop doing all the custom applications will be over $26,000. About twice of other years. Again, I’m a small farmer. Add another zero or two for the big guys. And their $54,000 subsidy doesn’t look like so much anymore. I’ll remain optimistic crop prices will stay up and it will rain at all the right times, and I won’t go taking out extra loans for anything.
Not complaining, just telling you how it works.
Pheasants have just started coming to eat corn with the ducks.
Had a bald eagle flying over the farm the other day.
The ducks chose to eat at a new place Friday.
We bought a new heated water bucket for the chickens since we have this bitter cold spell coming on. I’ve used heat lamps before and I’ve used a heated pad the water buckets sit on. Both work OK, but below zero is pretty tough to keep the water open. The coop is an enclosed pen inside another building. When I built the pen I had Styrofoam insulation on the walls. The chickens pecked it all off and ate it. Huh. Didn’t know they’d do that. The heated bucket says it has a 6’ cord. I cannot get it out of the bottom; it seems to be jammed inside, stuck around the supports inside. It was really frustrating me! I spent 5 minutes trying to see in the little opening at the bottom and threatening to cut a hole in the bottom to get the cord out and I got frustrated and headed to the house with it before I realized it’s a bucket within a bucket. Oh.
They pulled apart and the cord came right out. You gotta be smarter than the bucket, Ben.
Ever kiss anyone special on New Years Eve? Tell us about your favorite Kiss?