Southern Spotlight: Toward a Common Goal

James Banahan

James Banahan

One of the main challenges in my life right now is potty training my son.  As those of you who have gone through this before know, potty training isn’t easy.  The way we’ve got it working right now is that he tells when he has to go, and I then rush him to the nearest toilet.  This works super well—so long as he actually tells me when he has to go.  Sometimes he doesn’t, and that’s when we get a mess to clean up.  That’s when I have to remind myself that while it’s very important to me that he fulfills his end of the bargain (telling me when he has to go), it’s often not as exactly as important to him to do so, like when he’s watching a particularly good cartoon.

Basically, while we’re making some progress, I’ve essentially helped facilitate a failing program by setting the expectation that my little boy will care about going in the toilet more than he cares about Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

It strikes me that sometimes something similar happens between us (employees of the co-op) and you (growers).  Though both parties want to achieve the same end—in this case, a successful season—we can feel differently about what is important or how important that thing is.

Regular readers know that throughout the fall, my favorite drum to beat has been purchasing fertilizer.  Input prices are high, grain prices are low, but my beat all along has been that you need to buy anyway.  And you need to buy like right now.  But many of you still (still!) haven’t, which is evidence that we feel differently about how important taking that action is right now.

You don’t sell all of your grain in one day, so why should you have to buy all of your fertilizer in one day?  Well, you don’t.  And that’s a perspective that offers us a different way forward (rather than me constantly hammering you about fertilizer purchases, and you constantly ignoring my pleas).

So what’s that way?  It’s this: You don’t have to buy all of fertilizer right now if you don’t feel ready to, but you can work toward that readiness.  Input prices might drop, but they likely won’t.  Therefore, working toward that readiness means determining your yield goal for next year.  It means knowing your basic needs for fertility, acquainting yourself with next year’s cash flow, and measuring your attitude toward risk.  Armed with this information and operational assessment, you’ll gain a clearer picture of your situation and a clearer perspective on what your fertilizer purchase will mean to your bottom line and when you might make it.

If reading that list—yield goal, fertility needs, cash flow, attitude toward risk—has you feeling like a deer in the headlights, now is a good time to gather for a little business meeting with your FSA and/or your accountant, wife, and banker to uncover such details.  You don’t have to buy all of your fertilizer today, but moving forward with a solid plan is the best way to support your continued prosperity in 2015.

Planting is, of course, only 130 days away.