- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2020

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Farmers are known throughout the community as optimistic, determined and hardworking. However, in today’s time, their worries may be outweighing their optimism.

Every year farmers know they have a constant concern - the weather. However, this year farmers are seeing poor market prices on all commodities they grow, from peanuts to cotton and even cattle.

“The demand for cotton and cattle are right for our farmers,” said Alabama Cooperative Extension Agent/Henry County Jimmy Jones. “Farmers have very poor market prices this years. To give everyone a little insight on how poor the prices are for farmers, well, they are looking at 1980 prices.”

Although it has almost been two years since Hurricane Michael, farmers are still dealing with the loss of their 2018 crops.

“Our farmers are still dealing with issues related to Hurricane Michael, and now they are looking at poor prices,” Jones said. “They never recovered from Michael. They never got any kind of disaster relief. Farmers need some relief, and they need it now. Everything expense-wise is higher for farmers, except for diesel. With farmers not seeing good commodity prices, they aren’t seeing a profit being made. If they can’t make a profit, they can’t pay the bank. That’s a huge concern for farmers and their families.”

According to Jones, the coronavirus can’t be blamed for the stress farmers are facing, although it may add additional concerns for them.

“This is not a yea, where farmers are excited about being in the fields,” Jones said. “This is a year, I believe, where farmers are just hoping to make a profit. I’m afraid if nothing changes soon with the commodity prices, we may start to see farmers go out of business. And for most farmers, farming is all they have ever done. A farmer takes great pride in serving the people of the United States. They take great pride in knowing they are producing a quality project for the people. But they must make a profit.”

Although farmers are struggling now, they are looking at ways to turn a profit. Some farmers will continue to plant cotton, peanuts, and other crops. However, Jones believes mostly peanuts are being planted this year.

“Farmers know the commodity prices are low, but they also know they can produce enough peanuts to survive and make a little profit,” Jones said. “But with an excess of peanuts produced, the prices will not increase.”

According to Alabama Extension Regional Wiregrass Agent William Birdsong, cotton prices will bring on tough times. Cotton is currently trading below 60 cents per pound. He believes prices will go back up, but the question is when.

Birdsong urges farmers to develop a strategy to improve opportunities for higher yields and profitability.

Farmers should choose cotton varieties that consistently show good to excellent yields. Producers should utilize soil tests and update and calibrate planters for precise, accurate seeding.

“You know, take a look around, talk with a farmer, they may or they may not go into detail about their worries, but after speaking with a farmer you can determine one thing: no matter what, you have to give them kudos for continuing every day to provide food for our nation and our world,” Jones said. “Our farmers are resilient.”

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