Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Grain Prices - Will They Effect You?

Picture Unless you’ve been living under a rock or just don’t pay attention to the media, you  know much of the United States is suffering from a drought. The experts say this dry weather rivals any we have had in at least fifty years.

There will be far reaching effects for the next few years. I Googled up some headlines to see what I could find in the news and it seems agriculture is front and center.

Probably fitting because for many folks the extremely dry weather has only meant a welcome break from cutting the grass and no rain dates for sporting events or that trip to the lake.

For farmers it could mean the end of their operation.

I consider myself a small farmer so I speak from experience in that realm. To be more specific I raise livestock. 

When I went back to farming in about 1998, corn was $1.98 a bushel. This morning I saw the USDA is talking $8.20 a bushel as a high this winter.

Let’s look at some headlines I pulled up:

The dramatic effects of a small corn crop.

Corn futures could be headed for an explosive run up.

Terrifying Corn Supply/Demand Situation Unfolding.

High Corn, Soybean Prices to Slash Demand.

Say What? $55-Plus Soybeans and $17-Plus Corn!

U.S. drought drives up food prices worldwide – CNNMoney

Drought  Impacting Livestock, Effects on Food Prices Still to Come —Accuweather


When I looked for pigs to start out with in the early days I decided on Tamworth pigs as they were an old breed and they were known to “do well on pasture.”

I had two foundational goals for all my livestock:

1) Cut out as much off farm inputs as possible (grain etc).

2) Develop our livestock to align with that goal. (minimal grain consumption)

Things have come a long way since those early years but I still find myself wishing we were farther down the road toward these goals when I see the grain prices.

I expect meat prices to go up across the board in the U.S. I also expect to see many small livestock farms fold their tents and quit trying to raise livestock while simultaneously handing the local feed mill all of the small profit they might have made if corn was cheap.

"These prices ought to scare the blazes out of ethanol and livestock producers. It appears that the biggest bulk of this cutback will fall on the backs of the livestock, poultry and hog industry. They have some serious decisions to make. And, once you write it on the wall in blood by USDA, I’d say you have a tendency to believe it." - Jerry Gulke, president of the Gulke Group.



If you’re a consumer of farm products direct from the farm it’s inevitable to see prices rise…possibly dramatically.

If you’re a customer of Spring Hill Farms know that we are doing everything in our power to keep clean, healthy, grass based, food on your table regardless of the grain prices. That’s been our goal from the beginning.

Until next time….
 
 

The Beef You Eat - Cancer Fighter?

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Grass Fed Beef
The demand for grass fed beef is on the rise. Research is proving out that it is healthier for you and even helps fight cancer.

It took a long time to convince me that grass fed beef was better for you than grain fed.

The research that is coming mainstream these days though will convince the most skeptical person.

It's hard to describe the feeling you have sitting down to dinner with those you love and knowing they are eating foods that help keep them healthy rather than making them sick. That is one of our main priorities here at Spring Hill Farms.

Diet and lifestyle are two of the foundational keys to health. Read Dr Mercola's latest blog about the benefits of grass fed beef. [More]


 

 
 

More Land - More Grain

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More Acres
Source: Congressman Devin Nunes


Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and 25 of his House colleagues called on President Barack Obama to release willing farmers from their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts in order to produce additional grain. With Americans facing rising food prices and government officials predicting the possibility of grain shortages, immediate action is necessary to enhance U.S. production. (see letter here)   “Americans deserve a government that plans for the future. That means responding to threats of grain shortages, not just predicting them. Releasing some land from CRP contract will provide an infusion of additional production that is desperately needed. It’s a decision the President can make and one he should act upon as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Devin Nunes.  

Record Production / Falling Stocks In 2011, grain production in the United States is expected to cover 92 million acres – one of the largest plantings in more than 50 years. Yet despite this enormous production, domestic supplies of grains are falling at the fastest rate ever recorded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).   Meanwhile, U.S. consumer food prices (for proteins) have risen by 6.8% in the past year, more than triple inflation. The costs of staple commodities are rising at an alarming rate, threatening the weakened U.S. economy but also pushing struggling families beyond their limits.  

Real Shortages Global demand for grains has soared and various national and international agencies are predicting that shortages are likely. As a result, many nations are stockpiling reserves. Throughout Asia and the developing world, governments are working to establish significant reserves. It is time for the U.S. government to recognize the crisis and take action.   Action Congressman Nunes and his colleagues believe it is essential for the President to act. The USDA can promote increased grain production by releasing willing farmers of arable land from the Conservation Reserve Program. There are 32 million acres currently out of production under CRP contracts. A significant amount of this land could be used to produce crops.


Thanks to Agweb for this article.


 

 
 

Become a Farmer of Choice

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This is not a commodity!
I recently read an article from Ag Web titled "Make Yourself a Farmer of Choice."

When I saw the title I was intrigued as this particular website is focused on industrial agriculture and commodity products as far as I can tell.

I thought "this should be interesting, how do you become a farmer of choice with a product that is a commodity?"

The author started out saying "how you position yourself as a farmer will determine your success with suppliers and buyers."

Ah so we're talking about the relationship with our "suppliers and buyers."

What about customers?

Well as a commodity farmer you don't have customers. At least not a customer as the small farmer who sells direct has customers.

I mean you go down to negotiate your grain sales, how much negotiating power do you really have?

Or you take a load of cattle to the buyer, and you get what the market says you get. Many people don't realize it but almost all commodity cattle is bought "on the rail."

That means your cattle are slaughtered and hanging on the rail before a price is decided.  

Um, what if you don't like the price? Do you load up your carcasses and take them elsewhere?

The author also said

"Ask yourself:

  • What do we do best?
  • What is our target customer?
  • What needs do we fulfill for them?
  • Who is our competition?
  • What makes us different from them?"
All really good questions but as a commodity farmer I'm still left wondering how you would have much of a direct impact on these issues.

I'm certain you would have some impact but not nearly what the small farmer who is selling direct to consumers would.

The article went on to say “You need to know what sets you apart from your competitors. Your competition is anyone that farms around you.”

Huh?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the authors intent here, but how could you be in competition with your neighboring commodity farmer?

The very definition of commodity defies it.

Commodity - A basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type. Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services. The quality of a given commodity may differ slightly, but it is essentially uniform across producers.

I can't figure out how you make a commodity competitive. From where I sit the commodity farmer has the least control over his products value in the marketplace.

The local commodity buyer doesn't care about how you raised your cattle on grass and never gave them hormones etc. They want to look at carcass quality and that's the end of the story. They are looking to get the price down not find ways to pay you more.

And grain? What kind of story can you tell the grain elevator and get a better price? They look at a few factors of quality and test weight and it is what it is...take it or leave it.

The best advice I can think of for a commodity farmer is start transitioning away from commodity sales with the intention of moving as much of your products to direct sales as you can.


Until next time....
 
 

More Evidence: On the Edge of a Food Shortage.

I recently posted I felt food and grain prices would remain high throughout 2011 and beyond.

Reading Lester Brown's book, WORLD ON THE EDGE he points out some interesting statistics about grain. You can read them in the document posted on my site.

While I'm not doing a book review here, I will say the book has some good points, however some of Brown's ideology about the world cooperating on some of these issues is looking through rose colored glasses.

When reading books or listening to others ideas I try to keep an open mind, at the same time, I try to use the sense of an old cow, eat the hay and spit out the sticks! 

The main point I want to bring out is Brown isn't necessarily against genetically modified seeds, but he doesn't seem to think they are the big magic bullet that many would want you to believe. As far as I can tell his reasons are fairly sound.

Which brings me to my next point. Ray Bowman was recently asked on Consumer Ag connection about the future of agriculture he said "Frightening" he then pointed to our young people as a possible source for answers although he pointed out that there isn't nearly as many young men and women interested in farming today as when he was young.

The segment ended with Pam Fretwell asking him if he thought they would "be allowed to do what was needed" to solve world hunger. Since this radio program focuses on mainstream agriculture I'm sure they are getting ready to talk about bio-tech answers for world hunger.

And so as the debate heats up, you can bet one of the answers coming from mainstream Ag is more and better genetically modified seeds, better chemicals, more bushels per acre etc. 

My thoughts are you better plant a garden this year and find a local small farmer so you can stock up.

Until next time...
 
 
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