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Ag outlook focuses on soybean yields and profitability

Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy, who holds the world record for soybean production at 171 bushels per acre, talks to farmers at the South Dakota Soybean Association Ag Outlook Meeting in Sioux Falls on Dec. 7. Michelle Rook / Special to Forum News Service1 / 2
John Roach with Roach Ag Marketing tells farmers at the South Dakota Soybean Association Ag Outlook Meeting on Dec. 7 that he anticipates the soybean market will rally and provide a profitable price level for farmers to make sales. Michelle Rook / Special to Forum News Service2 / 2

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — More than 700 farmers in the region attended the South Dakota Soybean Association Ag Outlook Meeting on Dec. 7 to get a jump-start on their plans for the 2018 growing season. This year the focus was on helping farmers increase soybean yields and profitability in a tough price environment.

Featured speakers included Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy, who holds the world record for soybean production at 171 bushels per acre. He says South Dakota farmers can do the same by paying attention to detail and analyzing their data.

"They need to be a student of the crop, they need to understand where yields come from, they need to understand where yield is lost. And without data, that's hard to make that decision," Dowdy says.

He says it's hard to make decisions on what to use in the field without knowing what works.

"If they don't know what works, how can they cut it out?" he says.

In the current price environment, farmers are often sabotaging big yields by cutting inputs, Dowdy says.

"When numbers go down, margins go down, return on investment is getting slim and they're questioning things," he says. "The first thing they want to do is slam on the breaks and cut back. We need to spend money on things that pay. Now we've got to know what pays."

Many farmers are creatures of habit and don't like change, but according to Dowdy they need to test products to know what works and what doesn't work on their farm.

"You've got to have data," he says. "They should be pulling tissue samples every week. They should be pulling soil samples. They should know and understand how much of each nutrient it takes to grow a crop. They should understand what the levels need to be in the plant to make sure that they're doing all that they can."

Dowdy says farmers can't just plant the seed and hope for the best.

Farmers also want to profitably market those higher soybean yields.

"Everybody came off of a pretty good crop. Some areas not quite so good, but they're looking to determine what they're going to do with their soybeans," says Jerry Schmitz, South Dakota Soybean Association president.

Senior market analyst John Roach with Roach Ag Marketing anticipates the soybean market will rally and provide a profitable price level for farmers to make sales, so they need to have a plan in place.

"Growers have to be ready when we get the rally, when we get the sell signal to pull the trigger. We probably won't last very long unless there's some real weather dynamic that's driving us," he says.

Roach says beyond South American weather, which spurred the recent rally in soybeans, he thinks high prices in the soybean market will likely come from the lack of farmer selling. He is also optimistic about demand with strong processing margins and exports, which he expects to pick up after South America runs out of beans, which he says will be soon.

In another session, estate attorney Carolyn Thompson shared how farmers can pass their farm to the next generation. The owner of Thompson Law in Sioux Falls says the hardest part of estate planning for farmers is just getting started.

"How people get started is so simple," she says. "They make a call to a qualified estate planning attorney who focuses in ag — and I swear I think the hardest thing is for them to simply make that appointment."

Thompson says one of the biggest mistakes farmers make is thinking they have to have their plan prepared before they seek legal assistance.

"Once they make the appointment, if they're working with a great team of attorneys, the attorneys are going to guide them through the process. Don't worry about all the technical tacts and probate — we're going to get you through that," she says. "But what we need to know is what matters most to you and your family. What do you want to do to keep this operation going?"

Ag Outlook is also the annual business meeting for the South Dakota Soybean Association. Resolutions Chair John Horter says they dealt with some cleanup language on wetland delineations and non-meandered waters. Plus, they passed a resolution to support the precision ag program and building at South Dakota State University and find funding for the $30 million balance.

"We've got to lean on the legislators. You know it's the only program in the nation so far let along the state so its very cutting edge for our state and very important," Horter says.

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