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Farm leader predicts 2009 to be a challenging year

Oklahoma

This will be a challenging year full of opportunities and pot holes for agricultural producers and consumers alike.

That's the assessment of Mike Spradling, president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.

In the coming months, Spradling expects to see opportunities for farmers to sell their commodities for a profit.

"To survive a volatile economy, producers will have to be shrewd marketers," Spradling said. "I expect the market to provide windows of profit opportunity, but at the same time pot holes of losses."

The agricultural leader acknowledges every producer's break even points are different, but just like in 2008, large price swings will force them to study the markets closely.

"Successful farming is often a combination of good timing and good weather," Spradling said. "We can't control the weather, but with skill and a little luck we can grab a profit out of the market."

Spradling expects farmers and ranchers to be faced with unpredictable and wildly fluctuating input costs, especially in the energy sector.

"Some of our wheat producers applied expensive fertilizer when they planted the crop last fall, while others are hoping for fertilizer prices to drop this winter so they can top dress the crop before spring," Spradling said. "Only time will tell which producer made the more profitable decision."

March and April will be crucial months for farmers as the wheat breaks winter dormancy and they begin spring planting chores. Spradling believes many producers won't have a choice but to apply at least some fertilizer, regardless of the cost, for their spring crops.

"If farmers want to have any chance at growing a crop, they must fertilize," Spradling said.

The Sand Springs rancher and pecan producer uses a sports analogy to define the situation.

"You can't win the game sitting on the sidelines. If you're going to farm, you must plant the crop and give it every chance to produce a bountiful harvest. We're not in the business to sit around. We've got to make things grow."

Spradling believes the economy will continue to ebb and flow as it bumps along towards a recovery, but one thing won't change--consumers will still need to buy groceries.

"I expect there to be continued upward pressure on food prices this year," Spradling said. "But, our farmers and ranchers are doing everything possible to produce an abundant, high quality, affordable product."

The farm leader added he does not expect food prices to make the large price jumps experienced in 2008, but emphasizes that depends on Mother Nature and the erratic energy market.

"If oil once again goes to $140 per barrel and storms wreak havoc on our crops, everyone will have to make adjustments."

Spradling wants consumers to understand the agriculture industry will survive this challenging time.

"Amid the uncertainty and concern that always accompanies the future, I want to assure you that farmers and ranchers will continue to make the sacrifices necessary to produce enough food and fiber for everyone."

Date: 1/30/09



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