Commentary: Texas farmers roll the dice with spring planting

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When I drive out in the country this time of year I think of Vegas, where the high rollers gamble their stake for a winning bet.

No bright lights, rustling crowds and the whir of slot machines in Central Texas. Instead, I see red and green tractors and a variety of farm equipment. It’s a different kind of gambling and farmers have anted up all winter, developing their game plan, preparing the land and laying down fertilizer. Now it’s time to go all-in and the rumble of high-powered machinery could be heard this weekend as farmers dropped seed into the ground.

I had the pleasure of talking with Ross Stromberg on Saturday. Ross, who farms between Hutto and Taylor, was fine-tuning his planter to ensure the seed was in contact with moisture. Ross had fair moisture about two or three inches down and was thankful for the recent rain. His corn will come up. He worried though, like so many farmers in Texas are worrying, about prospects for rain this spring. Forecasts aren’t encouraging.

Mother Nature holds all the cards when it comes to farming and ranching. Besides the lack of moisture, there are other worries. Insects. Freezes. Sometimes I wonder why farmers do it.

Optimism, I guess. And that challenge of growing the perfect crop.

There’s a special magic when everything goes right. A good stand develops. Timely rains fall. Insect pressure is light and the crop matures. Prices are good.

Bin-busting yields. Jackpot!

It doesn’t happen very often. Most seasons a crucial rain is missed or something else goes wrong. Some years no crop is made at all. But that’s all part of the game.

Agriculture for sure is a gamble. But it’s a risk farmers and ranchers take every year.

So who wins this high-stakes game? The House, as always.

And you, me and everyone who likes to eat lives in it.

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