Created: Thursday, 27 May 2021 12:00
Written by Mark Warmka
Check the Gauges
Do you remember when you were just starting out driving tractor and doing field work? I’m sure your Dad was like mine and said, “don’t just watch the implement and the field, make sure that you are checking the tractor gauges too.” His point being that even when you think things are sailing along, you need to be aware of potential problems and catch them before they become big.
Well, right now you may be thinking (and you would be right) that things have been going along really well in agriculture over the past few months. Prices have rallied and we were blessed with a bountiful harvest in 2020. But even in the good times, don’t forget to check your ‘financial gauges.’ The cost of production is creeping up (especially fertilizer), and by this next year it could be rent and other inputs as well. If you are not tracking closely, your cost of production on corn could rise to nearly $5/bu. It isn’t too soon to plan ahead for tax liabilities on the 2021 return, and begin to think about how you can negotiate a fair land rental agreement. How’s your marketing plan for 2021 and 2022? You will need to know cost of production to determine when and how to sell your crop. Do you have a good soil test program started on your farm? With the cost of nutrients, it is vital to only apply what you need, where you need it.
This is a good time to pay down on some shorter-term debts to solidify your working capital, and resist the temptation to 'buy' your way out of a tax liability. Invest in equipment when you need it and when it enhances your business, not when you think all the neighbors are upgrading. Use the good times to brace for the bad times. That way when good opportunities and bargains present themselves, you are ready to take advantage of the situation. A longer-term perspective in management can be very stabilizing in business operations.
2021 has provided us with one of the most exceptional springs in memory for suitable days for field work. Soils were in great shape and, unusually for us, there were no wet areas to dodge or worries about compaction at planting time!!
But…..we do need some rain, and the dryness does lead to some things for us to watch out for at this time.
Emergence: Many corn fields seem to be coming up in pretty good shape but there could be some spotty stands due to the dryness in the germination zone. A more likely problem will be uneven emergence that puts a corn seedling a few days behind its neighbor. It can be hard for that plant to ever really catch up to its full potential. If you have issues with this it would be good to double check your planter and make sure of your planting depth consistency for the future. Soybeans are more forgiving of populations and stand but also were planted at an even drier time. All in all, we are off to a good start with our crops but it is always good to evaluate and learn.
Herbicide: This could be a problem for pre-emerge applications. In a lot of cases, there has not been enough rainfall to fully activate some of these products. Walk your fields to see if there are any escapes or pressures. If you can catch these early, it is much easier to react and control. And face it, we could all probably use the exercise of a nice morning walk out on our farmland that we have so much pride in!! Get a schedule set up….like a school bus route….where you are checking areas on particular days and frequencies. A good habit that will help you spot crop disease and insects problems on a timely basis as well.
Bins: As long as you are setting schedules, put your grain bins on this also. A lot of bins out in the country are empty by now, but those that are not should be checked every week now with warmer weather. Lots of dollars in those tin cans this year!!
About Mark Warmka
Mark has worked at Peoples State Bank since 2003, serving as lead agricultural lending officer and bank Senior Vice President. He is also a member of the Board of Directors. Mark has an extensive background in the financial services industry, possessing both investment and insurance licensing and is fully accredited as a crop insurance agent.
He and his wife, Kate, an elementary teacher in Blue Earth, live on and manage the home farm near Easton. Their daughter, Amanda, is a Physician Assistant at UHD Hospital and daughter, Sara, is teaching and coaching at Fairmont Public Schools.
You can reach Mark by email or at 507-553-3155.
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