Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to the story, “Utilize Cornstalks As Forage, Expert Urges,” published in our online newsletter, eHay Weekly.
As I read my eHay Weekly about the suggestion of feeding cornstalks, I realized it is just another nail in the coffin of the Alfalfa Grower.
Yes, there might be a shortage of hay, but consumers are being encouraged to harvest CRP acres that are supported by the federal government. They are encouraged to harvest corn stover, which is the byproduct of the highly subsidized corn crop. Corn farmers are also benefitting from record-high prices. Those less-fortunate corn farmers in dry areas are protected by federally subsidized crop insurance.
When an Alfalfa Grower purchases crop inputs, he is competing with the corn and soybean producers enjoying record-high prices. The Alfalfa Grower is also asked to compete in the increased costs of machinery. The Alfalfa Grower who is in the dry areas or extremely wet areas has a crop-insurance program that is considered very poor.
Some are now asking for disaster programs in these dry areas for the corn and soybean farmers. I can assure you that disaster programs for the Alfalfa Grower are bigger disasters than the weather.
Conservation people wake up: Alfalfa Growers have less soil erosion than corn and soybean producers. Alfalfa Growers use fewer chemicals and fewer commercial fertilizers than corn and soybean producers.
The Alfalfa plant is used to clean the soils of excess fertilizer and impurities with its long root system before they leave the highly drained soils of the corn and soybean fields. The fuel requirements to raise three to five crops per year are less than the fuel demands of the typical corn and soybean crop.
Have you ever asked a horse owner or the person feeding a ruminant how important good dry Alfalfa is to the health of his or her animals? Have you ever asked a veterinarian what a good Alfalfa diet means to the level of sickness in a horse or ruminant? What contributes more to acid stomach, laminitis, metabolic disorders, colic, etc. – the feeding of dry Alfalfa or corn and soybean meal?
Politically, we are hearing outcries because the U.S. Congress did not pass a USDA Farm Bill. We hear nothing from Alfalfa Growers because they were going to get nothing anyway, and they knew it. No windfall crop insurance; no low-interest marketing loan; until recently, no low-interest crop-storage-facility loan; no direct farm payments, etc.
With $8/bu corn and $17/bu soybeans, why do we need those Alfalfa Growers? Some say good land should not be wasted on the raising of Alfalfa. Like many have done in the past, maybe Alfalfa Growers should trade off their Haybines, hay rakes and hay balers for corn planters and combines.
I am becoming one of them. I am harvesting the best corn crop and one of the best soybean crops off of last year’s Alfalfa fields. I am using the money from the sale of corn, at record prices, to put new tires on the tractor I used to cut hay. I am using the money from the sale of soybeans, at record-high prices, to spread much-needed fertilizer. No need for nitrogen, as the Alfalfa plants took the nitrogen out of the 78% nitrogen in the air.
What is the price of hay today compared to the price of cornstalks or CRP hay?
How high will the price of Alfalfa have to get so the corn and soybean farmer will say: “I would rather plant Alfalfa on that nice, black field rather than corn or soybeans?”
Alfalfa Sprouts anyone?
Harlan R. Anderson