Farm Prices

November 25, 1998

The fall harvest is in and the statistics are impressive. Put simply, America's breadbasket is bursting. Neither animals nor humans can gobble corn, wheat, and soybeans fast enough to make a dent in the supplies. Farmers grow it faster than anyone can eat it.

And that's the problem. Grain is so plentiful that it is being dumped on the ground and covered with plastic sheeting in hopes of a better price in the future. As Joel Belz put it, "so what if the fields are producing 120 bushels an acre? If you have 500 acres of corn, you might have 60,000 bushels to sell—but at $2.10 a bushel, you'll barely cover your costs." Now I don't want to seem negative about abundance, but I am concerned about the farmers in this country. They endure bad years only to have a good year and bad prices. Another round of bankruptcies and foreclosures are headed for the farm belt, and this time it's during a good year.

One hog farmer invited anyone who wanted free bacon or pork chops to stop by and pick up one or two pigs. He figured that was better than trying to sell them for less than his cost. Hogs have been selling at $21 so most farmers are getting just 21 cents a pound. You can't stay in business when prices stay that low for too long.

What's the answer? I'm not really sure. For years, we have tried governmental management of agriculture—often paying farmers not to farm. Then Congress passed the "Freedom to Farm Act" to bring more free-market measures back. Wisdom and business experience are necessary to plot the future. In the meantime, its sad to see hard working farmers lose money and farms at a time when there is an abundance of grain.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International