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Extension Agent: A look back on the 2013 crop year

By By Peter J. McGuill
Dec. 10, 2013 at 6:10 a.m.

Peter McGuill

The 2013 crop year was certainly an interesting year, to say the least. A cool spring that kept soil temperatures lower than normal caused a delay in planting. Also, a slow start to the season for many of the farmers in the area and a late frost caused some heartache for some producers with early planted corn and sorghum.

It is difficult to say that this drop in the thermometer caused much of a yield drag for fields that were moderately affected, but it sure made growers consider their options. Dry conditions prevailed throughout much of the growing season again this year, with some areas receiving timely rainfall while others had to grow a crop with moisture stored in the soil alone.

Mid-May brought bountiful rainfall for some areas in the county but left other areas dry for more than a month, which was detrimental to grain crop yields. These rains and others that followed determined the crop potential for 2013, and periodic moisture that fell late in the summer kept some of the cotton going through to harvest.

A silver lining to this year was a relatively slow year on the pest side of farming. The great work that continues by the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation has allowed cotton farmers in our part of the state another weevil-free year.

If only the farmers in the Rio Grande Valley were as fortunate. They continue to claim title to the only area of the country that is still embattled by the boll weevil.

As we put this year's growing season behind us, we are constantly looking forward.

What will next year bring? How will changes to the renewable fuels standard affect grain and livestock feed prices? What varieties and hybrids should I book seed on for next year? Where can I cut costs without cutting into my bottom line? Will it be another dry year, or will a normal rainfall pattern return to the Crossroads area?

All of these questions and many more can be thrown into the same basket of risk management. Anyone that has ever involved themselves with an agricultural enterprise knows well that there is a great deal of risk that is involved.

These risks - weather, commodity prices and other detrimental events that are out of a grower's control - can and must be managed to the extent possible. Managing risk is done through protecting yourself from a marketing standpoint as well as thinking ahead and being prepared from a production perspective.

Thinking through the "ifs" and "buts" can help avoid pitfalls and identify better ways to manage and produce a high-quality product and get paid for that product. By constantly reviewing and recounting the decisions that were made in 2013, taking note of the things that were positive and those things that didn't work so well, we can enhance our ability to manage these risks in the future.

As we gather this Christmas season, bow our heads and thank God for the fortune in our lives, let us not forget to include those who help put food on our table and warm clothes on our back.

No, I am not referring to the family member that went to the store but the grower that put his or her blood, sweat and tears into producing the food and fiber that we enjoy. It is they who provide us with the safest, most abundant and cheapest food and fiber supply in the world.

Have a safe and merry Christmas season and may God bless each of you.

Peter J. McGuill is the Victoria County extension agent - ag and natural resources. Contact him at 361-575-4581 or pjmcguill@ag.tamu.edu.

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