With more Expenses Than Earnings, How Does a Small Farmer Survive?

October 25, 2005 -- Posted at 6:30 p.m. CDT


JONESBORO -- Farmers across Arkansas are harvesting this year's crops hoping to at least match the money they borrowed at the beginning of the year.  But after facing drought combined with other factors out of their control many farmers won't survive.

Mike Cone, a Jonesboro Attorney said, “Generally they're very optimistic.  A lot but times are very difficult, and you're seeing a lot of concentration of farmers-- especially of small farmers are simply not able to survive.”


“I think our current farm economy illustrates the importance of having a sound federal farm program that serves as a safety net in high imput costs and low commodity prices,” said Cone, “It's that componet that allows the farm operation to continue from one year to the next, without that safety net, many farmers will simply not survive.”


Chad Baker, an Agricultural Loan Officer at Regions Bank said, “We can't change commodity prices so if they can't cash flow with those prices there's just not a lot we can do.”  Farmers in Region 8 are almost exclusively price takers.  They can’t set the prices, they just have to take whatever the market gives them.


Farmers in the United States compete in a world market, which means they have to compete with farmers in other countries.  Prices our farmer’s receive are dependent on farming in other countries.  Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln said, “We farm efficiently and effectively better than anybody else out there.”  “If we could ever have a level playing field the American producer would be the winner because they are very good at what they do,” added Cone.


Rising diesel and fertilizer costs combined with drought and two hurricanes has crippled many farms across Arkansas.  Senator Lincoln said, “Small farmers, big farmers they're going to all face some difficulties if we're not able to provide them the kind of safety net that they need and deserve to be competitive in the global market.”