DUCKS OR DOLLARS?

I can hardly call myself a real farmer, though I do spend real dollars and real time in the endeavor.  My farming operation consists of 168 acres of which I till 79 acres and another leased 118 acres next door to my farm.  I grow corn, soybeans, and wheat like many of the other farm operations on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Some would say that my real crops are ducks and deer.  Deer being very easy to attract here, but ducks are another story.

Commodity crop prices have been at record highs for the last three years which would seem to be a good thing.  Where my little farm lies has been a veritable desert during June and part of July for each of the last three years.  North of us, the top tier counties of Maryland and most of Pennsylvania have received quite adequate amounts of rain and have benefited greatly from the generous market.

As I write this, commodity prices have reached amazing levels due to an agonizing drought that has swept the grain-growing regions of the country.  Personally, I thought I was going to be given an exemption from the drought this year, due to that fact that I had experienced it in the preceding two years.  My neighbors and I experienced record wheat harvest and very good prices. However, had I held off harvesting and selling my wheat for two weeks, I could have realized a much higher profit.

My corn was the best stand I think I’ve ever planted with practically every plant coming up and germinating on almost the same day.  Things looked marvelous through much of June, but little to no rain in the last two weeks of June and almost all of July has taken its toll on the beautiful crop.

Full-season soybeans on my leased farm look excellent and have benefited from some recent rain.  Beans after wheat look quite good also and were fortunate to have been planted two weeks earlier than normal due to the wheat ripening early.

Now my dilemma; as I stated earlier: I have a mild interest in attracting ducks to my ponds and I accomplish this by draining the ponds and planting corn to be flooded in the fall for a legal smorgasbord served just for my feathered friends.  I have taken the luxury of irrigating these ponds to be sure there will be a banquet waiting when the ducks arrive.  Consequently, with the drought, the ponds are now the only place I have exceptional corn growing.  So here is the tough question: should I leave the corn in the ponds for the ducks, or should I harvest it to take advantage of the astronomical prices available now in the market?  The proceeds would pay for a fantastic hunting trip with a little something left over.

Fortunately, my family and I don’t rely strictly on the profits I make on my farm, but do totally depend on how well my mostly farm-oriented fabrication business produces.  I think that in my business area, there will be many growers who do deliver an excellent crop this fall.  Storms have been spotty, and some fields look beautiful.  With the run-up of prices, some growers are locking in very bullish prices for next year and that bodes well for another excellent season of selling spraying equipment, pumps and parts.

Perhaps I won’t hit it big on all three crops this year.  Two out of three isn’t bad at these prices.  Oh, yes, and the ducks will eat well on SweetBay farm this fall.

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