The year 2019 on the farm: hot and dry. Drought is not new news.
Even the casual observer of fields in the state’s leading agricultural region knows corn without irrigation suffered to the point of destruction. Cotton, peanuts and soybeans fared better, but as you’ll find out in today’s T&D special section, “Farming 2019,” the heat and lack of rain had negative impact on those crops too.
Just how negative in many respects depends on where a farmer lives, what he planted and when. Some areas of The T&D Region’s counties got a lot more rain than others, which were bone dry.
Today’s section includes accounts from individual row-crop farmers and what they faced in 2019: Irrigated vs. dryland crops, good yields and bad yields, low prices and OK prices. And you’ll read about better times for dairy farmers – finally – and the state of livestock in the region.
One man with his eye on the big picture is S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture and farmer Hugh Weathers of Bowman. He writes today in a Page A1 column that times have been tough, with uncertainty high among farmers. But as the official elected to be the watchdog and advocate for S.C. agribusiness, he states: “Despite the difficulties, there are some real bright spots in South Carolina’s agricultural economy.”
• The growing state Hemp Farming Program.
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• Recruiting and developing new industries in the agribusiness sector.
• Opportunities in international markets, notably the United Kingdom and Egypt.
• Expansion of broadband internet access in rural areas.
Weathers states: “South Carolina’s strong agricultural traditions provide a base for a bright future.” He points to the 2017 Census of Agriculture showing the proportion of women farmers in South Carolina is growing, and is higher than the national average.
The harvest for 2019 is ongoing. The hope is yields will be better than anticipated and prices will cooperate. The international trade situation will have an impact on final results. Ultimately, the outcome will vary from farm to farm and could hold the key to the future.
Veteran Calhoun County Clemson Extension agent Charles Davis says timing is critical.
In the face of weather issues, low prices, international trade disputes and the high cost of farming, “the cycle of bad news seems to be endless,” he writes in a column on Page D1 Sunday.
“Ag lenders are on pins and needles dreading the positions they may be forced to take next spring. Most have bent over backwards to try and make things work to keep our farmers farming, to help the next generation get a foothold, and still it seems like the deck has been stacked against them,” Davis states.
“Many farmers are facing stresses they have not faced before. … The next six months will tell the tale of whether a farmer will be able to walk into his lender’s office next spring and be able to convince them that making a loan to produce a crop is a financially sound thing to do. If that happens, we live to farm another year. If that doesn’t happen, then the landscape of agriculture in our area will see a drastic change.”
In addition to “hot” and “dry,” we used the word “hopeful” in titling today’s special section – and we’ll remain so for the future of farming in the state’s leading agricultural region.