How well area farmers do in 1992 will depend not only on the size of their harvest but also on the size of their market, agriculture experts say.
"A lot of it's going to depend on the international situation the GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) talks, the EEC (European Economic Community), and the Russian situation," said Garry Keeler, agriculture agent with the Douglas County Extension Service.
Gene Schott, manager of the Midland Elevator, agreed. "It really depends a lot on what we do now that it's changed around in Russia," he said, noting that an increase in exports could shore up the price of wheat, which has been soft in recent years.
Keeler said there's no question that the reorganized Soviet Union will have demand for U.S. farm products, but whether the new commonwealth will be a viable market is another matter.
"We can sell them grain or give them grain I don't care what you do with it but they don't have the facilities to make it into usable products," he said.
ALTHOUGH U.S. farmers probably would receive better prices for raw grain, Keeler said the Russians probably would benefit more from value-added products, such as flour. But those products also pose a problem, he added, because many former Soviet states don't have compatible rail systems.
On the home front, Keeler said, U.S. farmers could see cash grain prices go up.
Although the wheat crop was planted in a dry and loose seedbed this fall and the cold snap in October undoubtedly caused some early winter kill, recent rains may salvage the crop, he said.
"The rains we've had this fall and early winter have been very beneficial," Keeler said, noting that the topsoil is now saturated and moisture has reached a depth of about 2 feet.
Below that level, however, the ground is dry. What Keeler would like to see is subsoil moisture improve to about 3 feet.
The ground also doesn't have a lot of cover and, without more rain, winds in February and March could blow away topsoil.
"The old saying is that a crop has to die nine times before you get it into the bin," he said.
HOWEVER, Keeler said that recent fog portends rain in early spring and a good soaking in March would boost the wheat crop and help the planting in April and May of row crops such as corn and soybeans.
"We just didn't have the moisture (in 1991) to raise a good row crop," he said.
Schott said he was optimistic about 1992 wheat prices.
"It should be as good next year as it was this year, if not better," he said but added that the 1991 market left plenty of room for improvement.
On Tuesday, Midland Elevator was paying $4.01 a bushel for wheat, which Schott said was the high since the 1991 harvest. When farmers cut their fields, the price was around $2.80, he said.
The low prices over the summer kept some farmers out of the fields at planting time, Schott said. "This fall a lot of people didn't even plant because it was so poor this last year."
KEELER SAID he didn't expect livestock prices, which were depressed in 1991, to rebound until the second half of this year.
In the hog market, he said, the problem was oversupply.
"We got caught selling extra-heavy hogs," he said.
He explained that while slaughter hogs generally weigh 230-235 pounds, farmers took hogs averaging as much as 250 pounds to market, hoping to maximize their profits. However, the market reacted to the oversupply created by the additional pork.
"I guess it's a lot like going to Las Vegas," Keeler said.