spring planting

Farmers one link in food chain

Some limited field work has been done in the county in the last few days. Showers continue to be a problem, but local farmers are taking advantage of any breaks in the weather to plant some seeds.

One other problem is the ground is still too cold for good germination. Some warm, sunny days are needed. It is still uncertain just how much corn will be planted or if some will switch to soybeans. With the ethanol plants limiting production because of lower demand, this affects the market for corn, so there may be some changes.

Across the Midwest about 51% of the corn was planted as of May 3. This compares to 39% a year ago.

Looking at the dairy picture, the purchase of Dean Foods facilities by the Dairy Farmers of America has been completed for $433 million. The Department of Justice was not happy with the deal and required DFA to sell three of the facilities involved.

With DFA buying most of Dean Foods’ processing facilities, many dairy farmers across the United States have an assured market for most of their milk. DFA is a farmer-owned cooperative and under farmer management.

Milk prices appear to be a bit better. The United States Department of Agriculture will be buying $120 million worth of cheese and butter in the coming months. This has strengthened Class III milk prices to farmers. These products will be used in USDA’s food and nutrition program.

Cattle farmers, and we have some in the county, are faced with a marketing problem. With several major meat-processing plants shut down because of the virus, farmers have no place for a large volume of cattle to go to be processed. This has caused a backup of cattle in feed lots and also has hurt the sale of cull cows from dairy farms. Cattle farmers are suffering substantial losses because they can’t get their animals processed. Loss of much of the market for cull dairy cows also is hurting dairy farmers’ income.

This situation also is affecting meat supplies in stores. Some stores are limiting the amount a customer can buy, and others simply have not been able to get any meat on their shelves. Some fast-food chains are saying they are running short of hamburger.

While we don’t have many hog producers in the county, those we have also are affected by the closing of processing plants. Again, this causes shortages in stores. This virus affects all of us.

Farmers have been doing their part in producing a plentiful supply of food for processing. They are, however, one important link in the food chain. Processing is another and when that link breaks down, it affects the entire chain from farmer to you and me — the ones who buy the final product from the grocery shelves.

Most of us will remember the experiences we are having as we deal with the virus. When we get back to normal, whatever and whenever that may be, let’s appreciate full grocery shelves and the abundance produced by farmers and made ready for us by processors.

Submitted by John Parker, who is retired from The Ohio State University and writes for the farm bureau and other organizations.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.