Cautious ‘Gamblers’ Go All In

Carroll Smith
Carroll Smith

In poker, when the chips are low and the stakes are high, a player may decide to take a risk and go “all in” to stay in the game. Farming has sometimes been compared to gambling. You put up your money and resources on the front end not knowing what cards you will be dealt. Will Mother Nature cooperate with timely rains and beautiful fall weather for harvest season? Will the price you get for your crop be enough to cover expenses and you hope put a little profit in your pocket? You don’t know. Weather and prices are out of your control.

And those who feed and clothe the world face other obstacles as well. The last Farm Bill cut direct payments to farmers and substituted other programs that are often difficult to maneuver and provide inadequate assistance to help make ends meet.
When the industry asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to designate cotton as the “other oilseed” within the Farm Bill’s Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declined. He said the USDA lacked the legal authority to do so. In response, the National Cotton Council said it would “continue working with Congress and USDA to find ways to help address the significant challenges facing the U.S. cotton industry.” The organization’s ongoing efforts, along with help from other industry groups, keep hope alive.

I loosely refer to farmers as “gamblers” with no disrespect intended. I only want to emphasize the tremendous risks they take to do their jobs and make a living for their families. They are the most honest, hard-working people I know who uphold the highest level of integrity. Although the risks they take are real, they are not reckless. Most farmers are cautious by nature and weigh their decisions carefully. They study variety data from multiple sources before purchasing seed and watch their crops closely throughout the season, often with help from highly trained consultants.

Meanwhile, spring is here, and cotton farmers are running hard. They have sized up their options and pushed all their chips to the middle of the table. For them, “chips” represent more than financial commitment. They also are investing their heart, soul and determination to succeed. In more ways than one, they are all in for the 2016 season.

If you have comments, please send them to: Cotton Farming Magazine, 7201 Eastern Ave., Germantown, TN, 38138. Contact Carroll Smith via email at

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