The negative outlook for an Ohio corn crop makes me feel even worse about the flooded farmland and the tornado damage to the west of us. While the tornado in Missouri was an act of God, it was the decision of our government to open the levees along the Mississippi River -- thus imperiling so many farms. This happened during the week that I was in Washington DC for the American Sheep Industry trip. I spent a lot of time talking about it with my fellow farmer, Leslie. It was heartbreaking for us to imagine the fears that would grip a farm family when they suddenly realized that they had only a short time to evacuate their land, that there land was about to be ravaged by a decision of the government. It makes one wonder why the government felt that the homes of urban dwellers were more important to protect than the homes of farm families.
More than 200 square miles of farmland in Missouri was destroyed when the levee was opened to protect the town of Cairo, Illinois. This was farmland that was already planted; these were crops that would have fed Americans. Now these crops have been destroyed by an act of our government, and it will take the land a long time to regain its fertility. The affected farmers will face extreme financial difficulties to rebuild. Flooded farmland, unplanted crops in the East, tornado destruction . . . all of this could led to surging food prices. For America to maintain her independence and security, our country must have a stable food supply! We must continually work to educate our political leadership. We cannot control acts of God, so we must not make foolish decisions that imperil our food supply!
I am just one goatherd, but I do see the impact that market instability has on agriculture. When there is a limited supply of corn, feed prices go up. This takes more of my available dollars. It means I need to work more days at my part-time job, which results in higher fuel consumption for my vehicle. Surging fuel prices also impact my finances. Admittedly, prices for goats and lambs are at an all-time high, but my input costs have likewise risen. And even though those prices are high, they are too high for slaughterhouse operators to be able to make a strong profit without out-pricing the consumer. The result is that businesses that are a part of the farm infrastructure start to shut down.
We saw evidence of this recently when Iowa Lamb closed. My mother & I toured this amazing slaughterhouse in 2007 as part of the Wyman Sheep Leadership School. It was a great adventure for us to see a large-scale operation, as compared to our small business. Unfortunately, the low supply of lambs and resulting higher prices impacted the ability of the business to succeed. It was sold to another packer, that closed the facility. This will have a huge economic impact of the small town where Iowa Lamb was located. Many of the town residents worked at the slaughterhouse, or the pelt company that used its hides, or the dog treat plant that used the internal organs from the lambs. This contraction in the industry creates more market instability for farmers.
So, what can we do to make sure farmers succeed and Americans have a secure food supply? As consumers, we can "vote" with our dollars, spending our money on farm products we support. As citizens, we can contact our elected & appointed officials. When Leslie & I went to Washington, we took time away from our families, our farms, and our work. Despite this, we knew how important it was to step up and speak out for the industry. Despite the economic difficulties our state has faced, agriculture could serve to lead Ohio out of its financial slump. There is a great potential for growth, but we need our leaders to understand the difficulties we face and respond with appropriate measure. After all, if we want to put money into the economy, all we need to do is improve regulations & tax laws for agriculture . . . farmers always immediately spend money on new equipment and better facilities!
Photo Caption: My friends are having a hard time planting their crops due to the massive rainfall in central Ohio.