Survey shows farm economy will slump this year
If the results from an informal survey of participants at the recent Oklahoma City Farm Show (April 23 to 25) and the Oklahoma FFA Convention (April 28 and 29) are correct, the biggest challenge for agriculture today is a positive attitude. Many of the participants, young and old, said the current economy just does not allow them to get too excited right now.
Visitors to Oklahoma Farm Bureau's booth were asked to fill out the brief survey which asked two questions: What kind of year will this be for the agriculture economy? What is the biggest challenge for agriculture today?
According to the survey, 48 percent of the farm show participants believe this will be a depressed year for agriculture.
"I hope I am wrong," said Jimmy Mabry, Moore, Okla., "but I think this will be a bad year for agriculture. Commodity prices are too low and input costs are too high for farmers to make a profit."
Johnny Richardson, Pauls Valley, was cautiously optimistic.
"I think it'll (economy) be alright," Richardson said. "Every time the farm economy has gone down, it's always come back. I am trying to think positive."
Frank Austin, Geary, said farm expenses are too high for him to be very optimistic right now.
"I think it's going to be a rough year," Austin said.
The FFA youths were more positive. Only 30 percent said the farm economy would decrease while 50 percent believed the economy would improve by the end of the year. The remainder said it would stay about the same.
When we start harvesting our crops this summer, the economy will improve, said a young FFA student from Chandler.
The biggest challenge for agriculture today drew a wide variety of responses. Farm show participants listed low market prices (29 percent); high input costs (22 percent); government regulations (22 percent); uncertain weather conditions (7.5 percent) and lack of public understanding of agriculture (4 percent).
"I'm concerned expenses are too high and it's discouraging younger people from wanting to farm," Austin said. "We've lost our youth. Who is going to feed us in the future?"
The 70-year-old Austin may have reason for concern. Almost 16 percent of the FFA students surveyed said low prices and a slumping economy pose the biggest challenge today.
"A lot of people believe it's (farming) too much hard work for not enough pay," said a Tipton FFA student.
Other challenges listed by the FFA students included: getting young people involved in agriculture (9 percent), being able to sustain an income while farming (6 percent) and loss of farmland (4 percent).
"I believe the farm economy is faced with a great opportunity to feed the ever-growing population," said a Tuttle FFA student. "Commodities will go up in price and farmers and ranchers will greatly benefit."
Perhaps the most comforting comments came from a young Stratford FFA student who said: "If there wasn't any agriculture, there would be no world because that is how we eat and have clothes on our back!"