Last year’s incomes were buffeted by federal and state COVID-19 stimulus funds. At the same time, price volatility and disorderly marketing confounded producers with even the most disciplined risk management strategies. Higher feed costs are likely to create cash flow challenges in 2021.
With general conditions currently favorable, there’s a familiar pattern of expansion in the wind. Given the increase in production, combined with continued uncertainty in demand, including shifting consumer patterns and residual COVID-19 impacts on the traditional marketplace, dairy advisers like Whitmire hope that farmers banked some of their 2020 cash to ensure navigating through the ride that 2021 may turn out to be.
“Market uncertainty and continued, significant volatility in milk prices set us up for a year of tightening,” Whitmire said. “That goal of having an emergency fund that could carry a farm business through six to eight months is critical for those times, which we may likely see in 2021.”
Not all the expansion is about getting bigger, but rather about getting better, Whitmire said. “Through careful analysis and honest reflection, several farms have identified ways to increase herd performance, reduce waste created from imbalances in human and physical resources and adopt technology that makes sense for them,” she explained.
North Carolina is tapping into resources to innovate, Whitmire said. Beginning in 2021, North Carolina State University and the Kentucky Dairy Development Council are partnering with the University of Tennessee to increase the regional impact of the Tennessee Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives program, funded through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The program aims to assist dairy farmers in the region to diversify dairy product markets, reduce risks and develop higher-value uses for dairy products, in addition to new educational programming offers. North Carolina and Kentucky dairy farmers will be eligible to apply for grants in the second phase of the program, anticipated in late 2021 or 2022.
- Progressive Dairy
- Email Dave Natzke