When it comes to local farming, few people have a better understanding of this area than Andy Jobman. After all, the Jobman family has been farming land around Gothenburg for generations. Andy shared his story, as well as past trends and what he sees for the future during a special presentation at the monthly Power Lunch program on June 9.
Jobman was born and raised in Gothenburg, attending the same country school - 100R - that his father attended. He graduated from Gothenburg High School in 2005, and attended college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he majored in agronomy and agriculture economics. After graduating from college in 2009 he moved back to Gothenburg, and he said it was at that time that he became involved with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association (NeCGA). He has served as the Dawson County representative of that association to the state board since 2011, and is currently NeCGA president.
Nebraska has two corn organizations - the growers association and the Nebraska Corn Board. The difference between the two, Jobman explained, is that NeCGS is membership based and focuses on policy and regulation, leadership training, and other membership services and benefits. They are the ones that can lobby on the state and federal level for the corn industry.
The corn board on the other hand cannot lobby because they are funded through the state checkoff, which involves tax dollars, and are restricted by state statute.
Jobman is a crop consultant and works on the family farm with his dad and brother, raising food grade white corn for Frito-Lay, soybeans, alfalfa, and running a cow/calf operation. “You can’t talk about optimism, or the lack thereof, in agriculture without reviewing the last three years. The last three years have just been an abysmal array of ups and downs,” said Jobman. “We’ve had trade wars left and right. And in the last administration ag and ethanol were always butting heads with the big oil guys. Then Covid exasperated all of those things. It was really a perfect storm for crashing commodity markets.”
He shared that back in 2000 farmers were enjoying some decent corn prices, at right around $4.00 a bushel. In contrast, nearby contracts from last year were lower than $3.60 per bushel. “We were down closer to $3.00, thinking that corn was going to $2.50 or lower. It was a bleak time in agriculture. I was really thankful that I had my crop consulting business that I could fall back on for some steady income. This was before any of the relief packages were coming out - it was a very stressful time in agriculture,” said Jobman. “It was anything but optimistic. The thing you have to remember about farmers is that we are price takers, we are not price setters. So when I take my corn to Frito Lay, the coop, an ethanol plant or wherever I take it, I am stuck with the price for that day unless I’ve contracted ahead of time. But even then I’m only contracting and pricing on what the market is telling me my corn is worth.”
Jobman said spending the entire growing season last year watching prices that were coming in below their cost of production was very tough on farmers and began taking an emotional and psychological toll. “I’ve had friends of friends who committed suicide or got out of farming, and were just in bad mental places during that time period,” he shared.
Most farmers also pursue perfection when it comes to planting and harvest. “Every year when you plant a seed of corn that potential is highest when the kernel is still in the bag. Everything we do from the time of planting till harvest is minimizing losses that happen due to environmental conditions, whether that be frost, freeze, poor planting conditions, or what have you. All we do is manage bad things that happen to our crop in hopes that in the end we have something to harvest,” Jobman explained. “We set yield goals, but in the end Mother Nature is the largest trump card.”
The national record yield was set two years ago by a farmer in Virginia, at 616 bushels per acre. “So who knows what that genetic potential is. Farming is the marathon runner of careers. We get 40 to 50 chances in our lifetime to PR, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Jobman also talked about how innovation in farming has changed over the years. “In one generation we’ve gone from horses to horsepower. My grandpa started with horses and he got to see us running the latest and greatest technology before he passed on.”
As far as what the future of farming might look like, Jobman said that is basically anybody’s guess. “But you can bet genetic technology is here to stay. New technology in tractors, planters, modeling crops and weather, it’s all going to come into play,” he said. He said transparency with consumers is also an important factor. “People want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown. And people have the right to know. If we don’t get involved and tell our story somebody else is going to tell it for us, and they may or may not have the facts in front of them or the experiences to accurately tell what’s going on. That’s why I became involved with NeCGA and National Corn Growers. We are our own best advocates.”