Handling changing agriculture challenges

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Hello Northeast Ohio, this week is one which many of us at OSU Extension look forward to: Farm Science Review week.

It is a great time for farmers and others in agriculture to see the latest in equipment, view crop test plots, talk to agricultural industry leaders and experts and learn how to manage the current challenges of agriculture.

It is no secret that 2019 has been a challenging year for farmers. We are battling weather extremes, lower commodity prices, eroding capital and lower net farm income. Then throw in environmental concerns and trade issues and farmers have their hands full.

Recently, OSU Extension offered a Women in Agriculture dinner in Coshocton County and the theme of the evening’s discussion for the evening was “Managing Agriculture’s Topsy-turvy Ride.” During this event as well as at Farm Science Review, we looked at these challenges and discussed some ways to overcome them.

Today, I would like to share some of the ideas expressed by farmers and teachers on how to mitigate the issues we are facing today.

Push the pencil

One suggestion shared was to distance yourself from the bushels per acre or pounds of milk per cow mentality. While these are nice for bragging rights in the local coffee shop, does high production always guarantee higher profitability? Instead focus on the cost of production and the net rate of return per bushel, gallon, or hundredweight.

Additionally, most people enjoy diving into their financial numbers as much as they like a root canal. But now is the time to complete an intensive financial analysis. Take time to critically analyze your variable and fixed costs. What sacred cows need to be put out to pasture? How do your costs compare to others? How can you be a price-enhancer, not a price-settler?

OSU Extension’s farm business analysis team is able to help farmers benchmark your operation. Check out www.farmprofitability.osu.edu for more information on how they can assist you.

Adapt

As much as we love to talk about the weather, there is not much we can do to change it. So we must adapt to the new normal.

How can you farm in tighter windows? What changes in equipment or production practices might need to be made? Should you use custom hire for certain farm tasks which need to be completed “on-time”?

With our new weather extremes, you need to be prepared for go-time so there is no downtime.

Communicate

When times are tough and difficult decisions have to be made, it is important that communication increase. What crucial conversations need to happen in your family? What things can we do as a family to communicate better? What are the elephants in the room that we have been avoiding?

Care

We all handle stress differently. How can we help each other with the rollercoaster? Make sure to take time for your physical and emotional health. Everyone needs some time off to re-charge. Even if it means a quick “one-tank” trip. When times are tough, we need to gather together more, not less. Community is key.

Seek education

Make it a goal to strive for continual improvement. This could be through online courses, extension meetings and other educational events. How can you capitalize on the strengths and overcome the weaknesses?

As you are adapting your operation, seek out mentors to assist you as you learn. New and beginning farmers can use their network to help offset their lack of experience.

Continue to conduct your own on-farm research to identify the strengths and limitations of your farming operation.

Closing thoughts

OSU Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences are here to help farmers and our communities as they face today’s challenges. Check out www.go.osu.edu/agcrisis for more assistance and resources.

In closing, I would like to share a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson who stated “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

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