Nebraska farmers invest billions, in hopes of making a profit

Brandon Hunnicutt serves on the Nebraska Corn Board (NTV News)

At a time Nebraska farmers find themselves on shaky financial ground, they invest billions into the soil in

This reporter is getting a closer look, following 160 acres in Hamilton Count, walking in the boots of a beginning farmer.

Our first stop was a visit with Tina Barrett of Nebraska Farm Business, Inc.

She said, “Usually the biggest thing, especially when it comes to renting is what are we going to pay. Is it share rent or cash rent. When we look at what a quarter can bring in, that’s a sizeable chunk of it. That’s usually the first step.”

So first thing is that rent check.

Then fertilizer, seed, and chemicals. Tina says expected return could already be down to 150 bucks an acre.

Plus there’s costly equipment, like combines that are used a few weeks of the year.

Does every farmer need them? Some are rethinking that philosophy.

Brandon Hunnicutt, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board said, “How can we get to almost the Uber of farming and I think as we hit that next generation… somebody will figure out, hey we can work together to get things done. I don't have to go buy a $300,000 tractor, $500,000 combine. We can find ways to work together. The challenge is there, because it's a lot of money, just to run an average size farm.”

And we have to expect the unexpected, like water standing in the field.

“We can’t complain about moisture, good for the rest of the season,” Hunnicutt said, on a mid-May day that felt more like March.

So with a big investment to make, time is already against us.

We had hoped to have the field by Phillips planted a couple weeks ago. But it’ll have to wait, until conditions improve.

A pivot arm had to be replaced, which was another delay.

But once we plant, we’ll be thinking about harvest.

Often folks in agriculture romanticize about “feeding the world”, but the conversation is changing, to more business-like discussions.

“At the end of the year, what every business is trying to do is make a profit,” Hunnicutt said.

But it’s not glamorous to say my cost of production was the lowest of anybody. Everybody says hey did you hear how many bushels that guy got?”

“Exactly,” Brandon replied. “That’s the challenge of what do I want to accomplish.”

So we might skip some of the add-ons, or in this case, plant a hybrid that pays extra because it’s designed for ethanol plants.

Then we watch and wait, as the pivot moves through the field like the hands of a clock.

Only time will tell if we’ll be successful.

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