Thursday, January 5, 2012


A fellow posted corn seed prices of $2.50 for DeKalb hybrid corn seed and about the same for soybean prices received from 1967 on Crop Talk. I thought that would be a decent topic today.

I was in the 11th grade, going to be a senior at Eastern Brown. The Viet Nam War was escalating and I would turn 18 late that year. Gas was pennies per gallon, not dollars and two dollars was a good wage for me. Farms were much smaller and we had over twice as many farmers back then.

All of the farms around here had livestock, now basically none of them do. Grain farming was only to feed your stock which was all of our farm income. We rarely sold grain or hay and had to buy them both in short years. We baled every stem we could find so we rarely ran short on hay. If you had more grain, you fed it, if you had more hay you fed that. Life and the economy were very different.

Livestock meant you stayed close to home and daily chores were mainstay. The 60's were hard on our farm with depressed prices and floods and droughts. We had two major floods in that decade that nearly wiped us out. Farming was no easier than today, it was a lot busier.

This morning I am waiting on two young college men near my age in 1967 to help clean out bin number 3. There is only Sable to feed so the chores center around grain, not livestock and they aren't as mandatory as caring for livestock. Livestock is life or death every day, grain farming is do it when the sun shines.

Two dollars won't pay for many minutes of work and soybeans are six times higher than we were back then. Gas is probably over ten times higher so it's hard to compare that year to today but we do have some numbers. I wonder how many of you were even born by 1967?

30 bushels per acre was probably a good yield for soybeans in 1967 so we have doubled that production but corn has over tripled in yield per acre. We plowed everything in 1967 and now we don't plow one bit except for maybe this garden we have built in a few years.

Lots of things have changed in 44 years. If I wanted to talk to you it would have been by letter and my communication was amateur radio back then. People were leaving the farm that year and now health care, education and agriculture are the three top fields to study for a career.

What goes around comes back around but it never comes back quite the same. I found a neat story but it is 1951, not 1967, but since I experienced both years, I used it for my picture today.

Things have surely changed.



  1. There are a few figures from precisely 1967 in this article, the ones that show how the farmer's share declined for everything, bread, meat, eggs, dairy, etc.

    All the more interesting as the price index graph in the most recent years show that while the price paid to farmers is forever declining, the price of food paid by consumers is forever increasing. This was not the case in the previous years, with retail price fluctuations following more or less farmer price, albeit with a huge blanket of profit for the big AG corporations. Now there is not even this pretense of decency.

    It all shows how farming is doomed, you know the cost of your seeds, fertilizers and treatments will increase every year, and you don't know how the world's market will set your crop price. Actually, according to the chart, you have part of that answer: The crop price goes down every year. If you think about it, we are in a situation where farmers must pay to work (I frequently hear about $800 per acre,) but have no clue what their wages will be. It's also paid almost a year after they started working and paying first costs, transforming all farms into venture capitalism enterprises. Hopefully there are still a few "contrarian farmers" around, but most are being forced into a whole different jobs. Even coops are jubilating and cackling when they make some profit playing the capitalistic market like it's a game, not realizing they are playing into a system that does not help their own farmer members.

    The only reason there are still farmers around is, as you said, because in these 40 years or so, yields have increased. But even tripled yield corn means it's only a 5% increase per year. This was above the average inflation rate over the period, but now that yields are plateauing at around 250 bushels (at a huge cost), yield cannot match the inflation rate anymore. Looks like we are headed towards bad times for farmers once more.

  2. Now that is one sobering comment that is too true to dismiss. These facts have pushed farming away from the small family farm where each family member is involved into these huge farm operations where farming is more of a business than a passion. I am happy to be a small part of it and be able to help and encourage small farmers wherever they are but they, we are about extinct.