It seems that more and more farming operations are transitioning out of row crops in the Southeast in search of new business within the agricultural industry. Specialty crops has been one of those highlighted areas that is rapidly gaining popularity.
Jon Harris, with AgSouth Farm Credit, stated that, “As we’ve seen in the last several years, the margins on traditional row crop commodities have been challenging for even well-established farmers. Now, this year may be a little bit better, but what that has done is encourage those farmers to look at other crops or agricultural endeavors.”
Whether it’s in livestock, fruits or vegetables, Harris says that farmers are looking at other options, and some operations are becoming very successful.
These days, the Farm Credit lending is changing quite a bit. Harris says that at Farm Credit they “see” in terms of what farmers are asking that they need to know. The whole change in the way that farmers have to finance themselves is coming into play, which is pushing specialty crops to the region more and more.
“There are two things that we are really seeing that are driving farmers to make a decision,” says Harris. “One is trying to find a way to improve their margin, or maintain their margin right now, by deciding what to plant, what to grow and what things to invest in.”
Harris says that the other factor driving farmers’ decisions is their need to provide a path for the next generation to continue in agriculture. Harris points out that these are two closely related issues and two very large challenges. “We are trying to find ways to help our farmers meet those challenges,” says Harris.
“There’s been a long history in this part of the state, and nation, of traditional row crops. There’s always going to be a place for that, and we are always going to support those industries,” added Harris.
Image: (Bottom right) Bell pepper farm with corn growing on the row ends.