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Focus on Agriculture

July 30, 2012

Agriculture’s Fate Does Not Lie with Mother Nature Alone

By Blake Hurst

History has a way of finding us, even if we would like to decline the honor. And this summer will go down in history. We’ve passed the drought of 1956 and are closing in on 1936. My grandfather, who has passed on, would never accept a summer worse than 1936, the formative event of his long life. He’d never again be able to start a sentence with “Back in ’36,” because we’d answer that 2012 was just as bad. In fact, I’m planning on using this summer as the main evidence for the proposition that the younger generation hasn’t got what it takes. I’ll say things like: “Well, yes, it’s been a tough year, but you’re too young to remember the summer of 2012.”

We can do everything right, make the best of plans, have a perfect stand with high fertility and excellent weed control, but Mother Nature has plans of her own. Here in Missouri, I’ve visited with hog farmers who are facing losses as far as the eye can see and cattle farmers who will have a short calf crop next spring because it’s too hot for cows to breed. I’ve heard from ranchers forced to liquidate a cow herd that is the sum total their life’s work. Farmers in the Missouri Bootheel are reaching the end of their financial and physical endurance, as they work around the clock to irrigate their crops.

Crop farmers across Missouri are faced with no crop at all. Many of them are worried about meeting forward contracts when they have no crop to deliver. Feed prices are skyrocketing, and we all are suffering from the stress, both physical and mental, that the summer of 2012 has brought.

This summer’s disaster will influence food prices not just over the next few months but for years. We take reasonably priced and plentiful food supplies for granted, and although this summer’s drought absolutely will not threaten that blessing, it is a reminder that agriculture is important.

This is why we should worry about the future. We can’t control the weather, but policy mistakes are self-inflicted. As consumers deal with high prices caused by this year’s drought, voters and consumers need to ensure we don’t legislate, litigate or regulate ourselves in a permanent short crop.

Think I’m overstating the case?

The goal of these groups is to turn back the clock on science. If they are successful, crop yields will shrink.

Blake Hurst, of Westboro, Mo., is the president of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.