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Editor's notes: Welcome to 2010

Darren Olsen, Editor Published on 31 December 2009

Now that the parties are over, let me be one of the first to welcome you to the new decade. It seems like just a few editorials ago the Y2K bug was threatening to tear down civilization, Mad Cow disease messed up the beef industry and dairy prices saw both record-high, followed by record-low prices (adjusted for inflation). We have gone to war because of the single-greatest terror attack in U.S. history and we are nearing the end of the shuttle’s reign in outer space. Our economy has gone from red hot to burning millions with job losses and market downturns. I have a feeling the first decade of the 21st century is going to go down as one of the most volatile in a long time.

Yet, through it all, we continue to produce some of the finest agricultural products every year. The spirit of the American farmer continues to be a driving force in our economy and more of a solution than a problem to the angst our country continues to find itself in. While we have all been affected by these and many other events over the last 10 years, we are still in the driver’s seat of our own lives.

As 2010 and the next decade starts to unfold, we are looking at a different landscape. What we have been through has changed what we are looking at as the future of production agriculture. While no one knows exactly how things will play out over the next few years, I would offer the following ideas about what forage producers can look forward to.

• We are starting out with a lot of hay. If you look at 2009 production records, there is a lot of hay out there to start the new year. But not all hay is created equal. There are several areas throughout the U.S. that are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for the highest-quality hay. This past year saw bumper crops of marginal hay. One producer commented that people in his area that really can’t produce hay well had more than they knew what to do with.

This, coupled with the shortage of high-quality hay, has found the industry starting with one of the largest price spreads from fair to supreme hay we have seen in a long time. This type of situation just proves that quality will always trump quantity when it comes to production practices. Whenever possible, cut, cure and store hay for quality. There will be buyers and right now, those who have the quality are reaping the rewards.

• Roundup Ready hay just might finally be a reality. We are in the midst of the comment period on the Environmental Impact Study just completed by APHIS. It is critical to give your input on this issue. On page 25 there are details to let your voice be heard. If all moves forward, there is a distinct reality that Roundup Ready hay could be available sometime in 2010.

If that happens, there are several other genetic traits that will soon follow, improving forage crops in ways that have been difficult to come by. From low-lignin hay to drought-tolerant corn, improvements are rapidly developing throughout the industry, and the next little while will see a lot of them become available to growers.

• Financing will be tighter. It has been mentioned that the economy is well into recovery. While this might be true, getting the finances needed to continue farm operations is going to be tougher to come by. It will take time to see money as freely available as it was a year or two ago and in many ways, it may never be that easy to get the funds needed for operation. With that in mind, remember you are still a businessman first and a farmer second. No matter how much you enjoy being on the land, you still have to find a way to make it work financially. Now is the time to take a close look at what you do well and find ways to make sure you remain on top of your game in ways that make financial sense. With improving milk and beef prices, it will hopefully lead to improving forage prices, as well.

2010 is going to be a year of opportunity. Yes, it will have its challenges, but within them lie the chance to continue doing what you love – and that is the fun in the journey.  FG

Darren Olsen
FG Editor
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