Rice Farming

 - From the Editor -

Welcome to our world...

By Carroll Smith

Farmers have been trying to explain to the public and the politicians for the past few years that their input costs, particularly fuel and fertilizer, were rising at alarming rates and eroding their bottom line. For the most part, they were met with blank looks or perhaps a perfunctory, “Hmmmm.”

To me, most farmers are resourceful visionaries. They can usually see a challenge coming even before it has a chance to raise its beady eyes above a rice levee, so to speak. The first thing producers do is try to figure out a way to eliminate, or at least minimize, the detrimental effects that something like high fuel and fertilizer prices will have on their livelihood.

For example, rice farmers may experiment with innovative ways to irrigate to save on fuel costs or perhaps employ variable rate technology to use fertilizer more efficiently. The point is that they do their best to raise the red flag and alert everyone to what is coming, and if no one cares to pay attention, then farmers do the best they can to at least help themselves.

Lately, however, the script has flipped. Consumers who chose to blow off the fact that gas prices were beginning to creep up at the pump were existing within an insulated mentality that surely this was a fluke, and if it isn’t, then Uncle Sam will step in and put his foot down and fix everything.

What many people don’t realize, or choose not to accept, is that we live in a global world today. Granted, the United States is a powerful nation, but we are still terribly dependent on other countries for our fuel. Unfortunately, we can’t just reset the price at the pump.

What was bandied about for a while as a joke, “How high do you think gas prices will go before they begin to come back down?” has given way to a more somber question, “Just how high can gas prices rise before we are truly in an energy crisis?”

Yes, farmers tried to warn the public a few years ago of the consequences of things to come. Now that the gas and food situation is beginning to seriously affect the lives and pocketbooks of John Q. Public, it’s now the topic of newspaper articles, talk shows and political debates about what people can do to cope.

As the discussions escalate, emotions run high and “pain at the pump” becomes more universal, I think it’s only fitting for farmers to respond, “Welcome to our world…literally.”

Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 5118 Park Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tenn., 38117. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail csmith@onegrower.com.