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Farmers and ranchers struggling to stay in business

Flooding, high production costs and low profits
Posted at 7:35 AM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 08:35:03-05

Record floods.

Higher production costs for cattle and row crops.

Falling prices for cattle at the stockyards and for many farm commodities going to market.

Plus, uncertainty about the impact of tariffs on agricultural prices.

It adds up to many farmers and ranchers struggling to make it.

Muskogee County rancher, Bart Weidel, and his sons cut hay for other farmers to help pay their bills.

Weidel's sons joined their his cattle and hay business 10 years ago.

"There's nothing that can make you feel better that's to have your family workin' by your side, said Weidel.

However, mother nature is making hard on this family, and other farmers and ranchers trying to turn a profit this year.

"No matter what it's always tough to be in the farm and ranching business," said Weidel.

He tells 2 Works for You this year is exceptionally tough because heavy spring rains and flooding made for a late start for the hay and other crops. A rainy summer and fall then took a toll on the harvest," explained.

"It would rain so many days during a week that you really didn't have a chance to cut something down, get it cured and bailed up before the next rain."

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, Blayne Arthur, sums up 2019 as, "a tough, tough time for ag producers."

Tough because of all the wet weather.

Tough because of higher production costs.

Tough because of uncertainty over how tariffs will affect profits farmers and ranchers get for their products.

"Typically for our producers when we have a challenge in one particular commodity then we may have another commodity that can kind of balance that out. Unfortunately, 2019 has really just been challenging across the board whether you were raising cattle of had a wheat crop or had cotton whatever it might have been Mother Nature has been an incredibly challenging partner to work with this year," Arthur said.

To cope with higher production costs and uncertain profits Weidel says his sons take on extra jobs.

"With their side jobs in the winter they're able to make a living," he said.

While the Weidel's plan to stay in the agriculture business other farmers and ranchers are quitting or going bankrupt.

Troy Marshall crunches agriculture data for the United States Department of Agriculture.

"We went from around 80,000 to about 78,000 farms in Oklahoma." He said, "that's statewide."

Arthur said, "Having to walk away from that family operations or having to file bankruptcy that certainly can be incredibly, incredibly devastating."

The Farm Bureau combed through court records and found nationally Chapter-12 farm bankruptcies are at their highest level since 2011 and up 24% in just the last year.

It found what it calls the "sharpest increase" in farm bankruptcies right here in Oklahoma.

A closer look at the numbers reveals that was an increase from just two last year to 17 this year.

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