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Tighter Farm Budgets Forecast For Next Year
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- After enduring some of the lowest prices for their crops in recent years, Mississippi farmers are looking more to the experts for management advice for the 2000 crop as they tighten their budgets another notch.
County agricultural agents with Mississippi State University's Extension Service are advising farmers on management decisions ranging from land and variety selections to labor and pricing decisions.
"Every decision a farmer makes has economic repercussions," said Dr. Michael Ouart, Extension state program leader for agriculture and natural resources.
"Mississippi row crop and rice farmers face special challenges in the form of higher input costs and lower prices received for their products," Ouart said. "The key to coping with this situation is to pay close attention to the most current management and marketing strategies."
Ouart said county agents will be encouraging some farmers to consider new crops and crop combinations. The year 2000 will be a good year to remove marginal land from production. One of the more difficult jobs may be renegotiating land rent for payments more in line with current low prices and the earning potential of the land.
Dr. John Lee, head of the MSU agricultural economics department, said farmers desperately need to watch where they spend money.
"Growers need to avoid any new capital expenditures. The uncertain market and policy outlook make this a bad time to incur major debts for expensive machines and equipment," Lee said. "This should be a good year for growers to shop for crop inputs. Small savings add up quickly and significantly."
Lee said growers should evaluate labor costs carefully and consider doing some jobs themselves rather than paying a hired hand.
"Know exactly how much it costs to produce a crop so you can determine the break-even price. If you see a market opportunity for a profit, take it," Lee said. "A small profit guaranteed may be preferable to gambling on a larger profit later, especially if you are financially vulnerable."
Ouart said Extension agents will be encouraging farmers to use general agronomic best management practices.
Some best management practices include:
- diversify crops;
- select proven varieties;
- soil test;
- re-evaluate amounts of chemicals used; and
- consider conservation tillage.
"Growers need to explore all methods of risk management including crop insurance, Conservation Reserve Programs and others," Ouart said.
The MSU Extension Service is preparing for a teleconference Feb. 11 targeting growers, lenders and policy makers with recommendations for improved agribusiness strategies.