Coming off of two bad production years, Carolina farmers were hoping for some good news at Thursday’s Ag Development Forum at the Southern Farm Show from NC State Economist Dr. Blake Brown. Brown recaps his talk at the Forum:
“We talked about both the livestock sector and the crop sector. In both, we have really good supplies, we’ve done what we’re really good at in US agriculture, we’ve produced bumper crops of both crops and livestock, and so prices are down. We have gone from having record high net income in the United States to some of our lowest in decades now. so, I think we’ll have one more year of that.
“Of course, here in North Carolina we are very specialized, we have things like tobacco and sweet potatoes and peanuts. Tobacco prices are very subdued for them, we do have some tobacco contracts that are down this year, for the most part they are flat, so I don’t think we’ll see a huge decline in production in flue cured in North Carolina this year.
“Sweet potatoes, we’ve probably jumped out ahead of even this wonderful demand we have growing for North Carolina sweet potatoes. Prices were down substantially this year, so we may need to get that supply down in line with demand, but demand continues to grow for this product, so it continues to be a very bright spot. But, we can overdo it at any time, you know, with all of them.
“Livestock prices are probably going to be down again this year, the hog industry did a very good job after the PED epidemic of coming back. The good story for them is that grain prices are down, not good for the grain farmer, but very good for the livestock sector, so they have lower cost feed for both the poultry industry and the hog industry. Cattle prices are way down, our cow-calf producers are really suffering now, and we’ve probably got another year before that begins to come back.
“So, it goes up and down. My sage farmers, the older farmers tell me that ‘you’ve got to be in it for the long haul’, and we’ve been through this before, and we’ll survive this time as well.”
Well, you say ‘we’ve been in it before’. Speaking of ‘before’, has it ever been this drastic?
“It’s rare to see all sectors down at once. I think that’s the unusual part. A lot of times we’ll see the crops sector, and the livestock sector won’t be, or vice versa, but it is unusual for all sectors. Part of that has to do with the world trade situation, the strong dollar, we are very dependent on trade, and Brazil has produced some very good crops of tobacco, and soybeans and livestock here lately. I am hearing that their soybean crop is down this year. We trade back and forth with Brazil, they are our big competitors.”
Alright, Blake, what do we need to add here?
“We just need to continue to watch the export situation, anything that affects trade affects agriculture in a big way, watch the exchange rates. And of course, the weather is always the biggest factor, all that we can do otherwise the weather is one the biggest determinates. So, let’s hope for a good growing season in 2017”