I just returned from Jamesport where I picked up horseshoeing supplies for my son, who is a farrier. In talking with the Amish shop owner, who is a farrier himself, I remarked that there were several pastures on which formerly I had seen draft horses now primarily stocked with buggy horses. He responded by telling me that he shoes fewer draft horses now, because a good number of Amish farmers have given up on farming and cash-renting out their fields to non-Amish. But growing vegetables for commercial sales is increasing.
Then he told me that the draft horse market in Kalona, Iowa, a few weeks ago brought astonishingly high prices even for untrained two and three old drafts, a lot of which were bought by Japanese buyers for the horse meat market over there.
If what he tells me is true, here are my comments :
Since the commodity prices are not going up anytime soon, cash rent prices will not stay at present levels either. One better be diversified as a farmer and not depend too much on one source of income. For a while even Amish farmers were lured into deserting their old diversified ways, but it is coming to bite them.
Farmers disappointed about corn prices below the break even point have decided countrywide to plant more soybeans( we know this because of USDA surveys!!). Obviously they told themselves, since we didn't make any money with corn, let's find out as quickly and collectively as we can, if we can't accomplish that same feat with soy beans. The wisdom behind that escapes me, but what do I know, I am not a heavy machinery operator which most "conventional" farmers have become.
High prices for heavy horse meat can be an incentive for breeding more of those horses again, but of course have the downside that they harm people who want to work horses on their farms but can't afford them now when they would need them. The affluent can thereby make living harder for the less affluent. That is nothing new in general and we know that anyway by another example since NAFTA had the same effect for Mexican farmers in a reverse situation (a million of them gave up) since they couldn't compete with cheaper American imports.