NORWOOD YOUNG AMERICA, Minn. - The breaking of spring ground is supposed to bring waves of optimism. But as Elmer Hartmann sits on an ATV watching his wife Theresa disking a field for planting, all is not right.
The price the Hartmanns are being paid for the milk they produce is barely break even.
“It’s way down,” he says. “It’s about the same price it was 20 years ago.”
The price farmers are currently receiving for corn is, in some ways, even worse.
Three straight bumper corn crops have left the nation’s bins bulging. Much of last year’s crop is still under tarps on the ground as prices have dipped to half what they were four years ago.
Farmers cling to their 2016 crop as they hold out hope low prices somehow budge.
“Over producing is the key,” Hartmann says. “They keep producing more and more. Unless you get an outlet for it, it piles up.”
If trends don’t shift, this year’s crop could cost more to plant than it’ll be worth at harvest.
Curt Burns, a farmer and crop advisor in Sibley County, knows farmers seeking truck driving and other off farm jobs to stay afloat.
“We all know that farming is peaks and valleys and right now we’re in a valley and we need to try to make it through this,” he says.
Burns says a fourth year of depressed prices could be too much for some farmers to sustain, especially those carrying debt. Are we going to lose some farmers? “I think we are,” Burns says.
Ironically the thing agriculture needs, is the one thing no farmer wants, at least in his county: a crop failure.
“You never want anybody to have bad luck, but that’s what it’s going to take to bring these crop prices back up,” says Burns.
Despite bad prices, farmers like Hartmann are heading back to their fields. “Kind of like going down to Mystic,” says Hartmann referring to the Minnesota casino. “You just plant it and see what happens.”