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10 minutes with a farmer

With spring about a month away, planting prep is in high gear.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- For most U.S. farmers, February is a month that offers opportunities to attend meetings, shows, and events to catch up with the latest and greatest in agriculture.

But if you really want to know what farmers are thinking and doing at this time of the year, try spending 10 minutes with them.

That’s what I did with Randy Caviness of Greenfield, Iowa. It was quite refreshing to visit by phone about anything from nuts to bolts.

The southwest Iowa corn and soybean farmer allowed us to pick his brain Tuesday on various topics, both ag related and non-ag related.

It’s interesting to note that at least this producer expressed very little interest in discussing pop culture and political issues.

READ MORE: Who am I if I am not a farmer anymore?

SF: Wet enough for you?

Caviness: I think our soil profile is nearly full. We had a wet fall. And it was terrible last year, too, going into the spring planting season. We’ve done some tiling over the years.

SF: When someone asks how you are, what do you really want to say to them?

Caviness: I’m doing OK, I guess. A lot of farmers are facing a lot of things right now. It’s true that we’re not making a lot of money, right now, that’s for sure. The government’s tariff offsets are helping a lot.

SF: What part or tool in your machine shed are you working with the most this winter?

Caviness: Oh, we’re working on some tractors, we’re working on a combine. We run through all of our equipment during the off-season to check it, and we’re hauling grain on good weather days.

SF: Did you watch any of the Academy Awards on television the other night?

Caviness: No.

SF: Are you following the political events in the U.S. right now?

Caviness: Oh, from a distance. Not any more than I normally do.

SF: Are you having moisture problems with any of your stored crop?

Caviness: We were surprised that our grain quality is quite good. We have a lot of 58- to 59-pound corn. We have seen even some 60-pound corn. That’s exceptional. It’s better than No. 1 corn quality. Grain quality is good and even the moisture came down. We were taking a lot of corn out of the field at the 15% to 16%. We’re not hearing poor-quality stories around our area. In the eastern Corn Belt, where more poor-quality grain is located, I think their late planting had a lot to do with their higher moisture and low test weight.

SF: What about your area basis market? Is it stronger than normal? And are you selling into the strong basis?

Caviness: We’re blessed with three ethanol plants within 30 miles of our farm. So, that’s a pretty competitive market for our corn. Probably 50% of my grain is contracted. That will leave the rest of it to be marketed based on whatever happens with prices. As of Wednesday, local corn basis is even with the futures market, with the cash price at $3.79 for March delivery. So, that’s pretty competitive for our area. They are bidding up for grain around here.

SF: Record corn acres are expected to get planted in the U.S. this year. Will that be the case on your farm and in your neighborhood?

Caviness: We’re not doing anything extraordinary. We’ll do our basic rotation of corn and soybean acres.

SF: What’s your take on the markets? Where or when do you see opportunity for your marketing plan?

Caviness: Wow, that’s a big question. Obviously, increased planted acreage (in 2020) is not going to help. We’ve got a lot of competition out of Brazil, with a big crop coming out of their fields. Of course, you have a decrease in demand from the African swine fever and this new coronavirus disease is not helping stimulate demand, either. So, we’re dealing with a lot of things. I don’t know, we could be waiting another year for prices to recover. I hate to say that. Demand has been cut, while production has increased around the world. And, Brazil has expanded right into it. On top of all of it, China not buying from us because of the tariffs is cause for what’s happened.

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