Beef cattle, grain prices down for Ky farmers
Kentucky's farmers are dealing with lower profits in grain crops and beef cattle production than they have in recent years, according to Woodford County's UK Extension agent for agriculture. "Beef cattle prices are down a lot more this year than they have been in the last three or four years," said Adam Probst. He said the prices for young calves being raised by farmers in Woodford County are about half of what they were two years ago. "So we're seeing a lot of reduced profitability in the cattle production side," he explained. Probst blamed this reduction in profits on consumer demand and the supply side. Severe droughts in southwest states caused beef cattle prices to rise dramatically, which resulted in producers in other states (including Kentucky) to expand their cattle herds so they could benefit from the higher prices, explained Probst. In the aftermath of those droughts, cattle prices are "not near" what local producers had gotten accustomed to seeing when demand was high and supply was tamped down because of fewer cattle coming out of the southwest, he said. "We're kind of struggling right now because we're at the low (end) of the cattle cycle and we're low (in terms of price) on the grain side," said Probst. He said some "really big production years" in grain crops has resulted in an oversupply of the market. "Farmers right now are taking a beating because a lot of commodities are a struggle to make a good profit on right now," Probst said. Tobacco and hay production prices have remained stable, but Probst said escalating labor costs have resulted in lower profits for those crops as well. "So it's kind of been a real struggle for a lot of guys, for a lot of producers here in the county to really find something that they can make a decent profit at (producing)," he said. One way farmers are dealing with uncertain agriculture markets is by continuing to diversify. "They've really been looking at some different things to try," Probst said. In early July, he said farmers were counting their blessings in terms of weather because "we haven't gotten too dry." However, he said, "The more rain you have, the less sunshine you have. And we've got to have sunshine to make crops grow..."