Schueler says he’s seeing more interest in cotton in the area but believes “grain sorghum could be a big deal here if it’s managed like a major crop. We need to look at grain sorghum hard for this area, but we need markets. We know grain sorghum feed value is as good as corn. Studies show that it grades out as well as corn. Supply is also an issue but I think we can get the acres if we get the demand.”

He also believes the combination of grain sorghum and no-till or reduced tillage systems makes a lot of sense for the area even though “a lot of farmers are reluctant to change. But we are seeing more and more switching and more strip-till equipment as part of dealer inventories.”

Schueler has worked full-time for a bank in Friona since February to augment farm income from the 480 acres he’s been able to put together since he started farming on his own in 2007. About 220 of those acres will be in grain sorghum. He may plant some dryland milo.  He’ll plant 120 acres in irrigated corn. “We can’t do dryland corn coming off a drought year,” he says.

He graduated from West Texas A&M in 200o with an agriculture degree and came back home to farm with his two brothers, who were raising crops and cattle. Schueler is more interested in farming than ranching so he started his own farm operation in 2007.

He says about 1,000 acres would be a good size farm but he hasn’t been able to put that many acres together yet. “I’d like more acreage but I can’t find it. There is not much farmland available.”

He also owns a custom spray service to diversify income. “When I get off at the bank at 4:00, I always know what I have to do next,” he says. “I have some long days but that’s all right for now.”

He says few his age are farming for a living. “If they have family already farming they have a chance,” he says. “If they don’t it’s nearly impossible. The cost of equipment and land is just too high.”

He works as a farm advisor with the bank and says he often chats with customers to see what they are doing and to pick up a few production tips. He thinks crop insurance will be an important consideration for most this year but assumes the cost will be higher.

“We need to understand crop insurance better,” he says. “And we need strict rules to qualify for coverage.”

And he, like every other farmer in the area, hopes conditions turn around before planting time and that crop insurance will be one of those production expenses they can look back on next fall and decide it was a good investment at the time but wasn’t really necessary after all.