We wrote Friday about the importance of the food supply and the safety thereof. We noted specifically the role of agencies such as the S.C. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Today is the day for farmers. Inside The Times and Democrat’s Sunday print edition and at TheTandD.com, you’ll find our annual spring farming special section, which examines the state of agriculture in the state’s leading region for farming as planting season arrives.
The news from the fields and farms of The T&D Region cannot be described as anything but unsettling. The coronavirus pandemic is hurting farmers, too. And so are commodity prices and saturated fields from the winter’s abundant rains.
Thus the title of today’s section: “Season of uncertainty.”
Here’s what local farmers and agribusiness experts are saying:
• Cope farmer James Traywick -- "There is not a bright spot in the commodity picture. We are overproduced in everything and the world demand is weak. We are the only really good economy in the world, from what I gather … We can hope the virus thing will blow over as it impacts cotton a good bit. If we have to reduce and cut trade with China, it will impact certain things."
• Orangeburg County Clemson Extension Agent Jonathan Croft: "Commodity prices in general are a lot lower than we need at this point. It is almost impossible to pencil out a profit at the current prices. … "It (rain) could cut down on the amount of corn that is planted and that needs to be planted in April. The winter has been among the rainiest seen in the area in recent memory.”
• Bamberg County row crop farmer Richard Rentz: "My plans are up in the air … We are very, very wet. I am behind on land preparations from the winter. We are still not able to get in the field. … There is just the uncertainty of things. This thing could get worse before it gets better. … Prices are going the wrong way. It is a perfect storm of things going on."
• Bamberg County Clemson Extension Agent Joe Varn: "They can't get in the field and do anything. They should have been out trying to plant corn right now.”
• Calhoun County Clemson Extension Agent Charles Davis: "There is continued anxiety in the farm community. Not to say that farming is not an anxiety-filled adventure every year, but there is a growing anxiety that seems to be compounding. … The biggest is commodity prices. When everything you grow and sell has a negative price potential in the coming crop year, it makes for sleepless nights. … Normally, there is at least one bright star out there, but this year there are none.”
• Calhoun County farmer Drake Perrow: "There is not a commodity out there that the prices are very good, and if you are someone who is not set up to plant grains, it is just cost-prohibitive to purchase equipment to harvest it and have storage to store it.”
The majority of us being fed by so few in the world of agribusiness can take solace in the fact that farmers have faced uncertainty, adversity and even disaster so many times in the past. They persevere and move ahead.
As Will Rogers said: “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”
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