2011: Cattle Prices to Rise 20%, Corn More Than Doubles in Past Year
The Corn Belt Debate: Crops Or Cattle?
April 12, 2011
The Department of Agriculture predicts cattle prices will rise 20 percent in 2011 over last year. But that pales in comparison to the price of corn, which has more than doubled in the past year to nearly $8 a bushel.
You might think this scenario would tempt plenty of farmers to flip their acres from cattle pasture to cropland. But it’s a tough decision that depends on much more than recent prices.
Acres That ‘Flex’
Some farmers use the term “flex acres” to describe land that can be used either to graze cattle or to grow crops like corn and soybeans.
Ed Morse has some land just like that outside Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Wearing green coveralls and a tan hat, Morse stands outside his barn watching his 17-year-old son Noah drive a feed wagon down a row of cattle while the animals feast on corn and hay.
This 320-acre farm will see some changes soon. Despite the record-high corn prices, Morse is shifting his land out of corn and soybeans and into pasture.
“With the cattle you’re more on your own,” he says. “In some ways, it’s an act of faith because you have got to look out into the future a couple years and see that this will be a paying proposition as well.”
Morse is used to analyzing figures. He’s also a law professor at nearby Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Morse admits corn is tempting but says he’ll stick to cows for now.