Grower Spotlight: Justin Cariker (Tunica, Mississippi)

October 2, 2007

He is a cotton farmer, soybean farmer, wheat farmer and corn farmer, and when he’s not farming he is extremely active in his community.

He is on the Board of Directors for the Private Christian Academy, President for the County Planning Commission, Deputy Commissioner for the Soil & Water Conservation District, President and Board Member for the SIGNIA Fiber Cotton Cooperative, Vice President of the Tunica County Farm Bureau, and don’t forget the coach for his two sons’ summer baseball team. When you sum it all up that equals one very busy man.

And these are just his official titles. As a farmer, Justin needs to be an expert on market and price fluctuations as well.

Tunica, a town of 1,000, had industries revolve around cotton. But Justin watched the change in his town as farmers were forced to find new uses for their land by growing grains instead of cotton because the retail price is higher for grain crops. For many farmers this shift was a matter of survival, not choice, in a volatile price-driven industry.

Justin hopes this doesn’t paint the wrong picture when Senate eventually meets to discuss the 2007 farm bill.

He emphasizes that, “Even though commodity prices for some crops are high right now, that doesn’t mean farmers don’t need a safety net. Commodity prices regularly fluctuate wildly and can head south at the drop of a hat.”

He refers to the 1996 farm bill as a price example. Commodity prices were on an upswing when that bill was being written and much of the farm safety net was removed.

When prices started to fall the next year, farmers faced bankruptcy and Congress had to pass numerous disaster assistance bills.

Without the farm safety net there is less chance for farmers to capitalize on the high market prices because there is too much uncertainty for farmers when renewing contracts or loans.

“In a perfect world, the issues in the farm bill would be ironed out. But we’re waiting for some kind of answer so we can move on,” he commented.

Farmers can only hope that Senate passes a 2007 farm bill soon that builds upon the strong safety net in the House-passed farm bill.