For the week of Jan.30, 2017

Look ahead

 By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

             High yields and low prices characterize Kansas commodities. Discouraged, pure and simple. The family farm: Withering on the vine. There will be a moment of truth.

             The current economic headlines proclaiming our farmer’s plight are as numerous as the extra bushels of corn, beans, wheat and other crops that have helped depress prices.

             Today’s farmer is faced with major hurdles. Trade competition is fierce. Continuing consolidations and mergers loom as a major concern. Operating expenses continue to escalate and outstrip the margin of profit. Dry conditions loom just over the horizon and threaten a vulnerable corn, bean and milo crop.

             These are challenging times for farmers and ranchers.

             While there are Kansas farmers facing foreclosure on a farm that has been in the family for two, three, four or maybe even five generations, there are also others who have tightened their belts one more time and continue to plan and point to next year.

            One thing is certain, farmers across our state are all individuals – all have different operations and different challenges. All of them have a determination to succeed.

            A farmer I visited with recently summed up his situation this way: “Times are tough, but I keep my perspective and look ahead – my farm, family and entire livelihood are at stake.”

            Although this farmer understood better than most the struggle production agriculture is facing today, his major concern continues to be how in the world he will be able to weather the current economic storm. As I listened, and we visited back and forth, he talked about several things that might be of help to others.

            Don’t spend time and energy seeking to shun your responsibilities, he said. “No one forced me to choose this occupation and try to make a living. It was my decision then, and it is today.”

            Keep in touch with your creditors, he offered. Farmers and lenders are in this predicament together. If enough farmers go under, then banks will be in trouble, too.

            If you find yourself in trouble, don’t wait too long to do something about it. Don’t let fear and ego blind you. If your operation does not have cash flow, there is not much to work with. Look for alternatives. You can’t make something out of nothing.

            The majority of present situations are not a lost cause. Many can be saved with a creative plan but this depends on how quickly you do something about it.

            Seek outside help. Others can sometimes see a solution that may not have occurred to you. Remember to consider all the alternatives. You may not have to implement them, but at least consider them.

            Take a look at your own operation and see what can be done to streamline it and make it work so as much debt can be paid as possible.

            Never sell assets if sales will hurt cash flow and the ability to reorganize. Never sign or agree to something under pressure. Take time to reflect.

            Never blame others, and never give up. Don’t curse your neighbors, creditors or anyone else for these hard times – if matters seem as bad as they can be, chances are they will improve.

            Keep your faith in God and fellow man. Times have been difficult in agriculture before.

            There are no simple solutions to the problems facing agriculture. Farmers must find strength in one another and those concerned about farming.  Keep open the lines of communication between family, friends and those you do business with.

             Remember that when your back is against the wall you can do almost anything. Look for positive solutions to problems now facing your farming operation.

             In spite of all these challenges, most farmers are still talking, smiling and willing to address their situation. These farmers still have a burning desire to succeed. They are by no means ready to give up. They continue to plan for the upcoming fall planting and harvest and another year on the farm.

           John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.