SUNRAY, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Working as an agricultural producer on the High Plains comes with its fair share of risk, especially during a drought.

As producers face much higher input costs this year, a local agronomist shared how they can help protect their bottom lines.

Kaj Overstreet, an independent agronomist from Sunray who also sells seed and chemicals, said many area producers are cutting back on fertilizer, irrigation, and crop sizes during this hard year.

“What we have to manage are inputs, pay real attention to every aspect of it,” said Overstreet. “So that we can get these guys to make some money to be here again next year. And so without them we’re all gonna be in trouble.”

Overstreet went on to say if some producers choose not to cut back on costs, the hit could be substantial, especially on corn fields.

“If normally, we would put 100 pounds of nitrogen on and some phosphorus preseason. So if they didn’t put that on to start with, they’ve saved 100-150 bucks an acre easily, up front,” he continued. “So, like I said before, we can adjust that as we’re going and hopefully still accomplish good yields if the year starts working for us. As far as corn, we’ve adjusted herbicide programs on some of those. We started spraying some some stuff way early, like in February to keep the weeds from coming in at all, or minimize our weed pressure. And then hopefully, we’re gonna get away with one in-season spraying and take one herbicide spraying completely out.”

Corey Dunn grows corn, cotton, and wheat, and also raises cattle and sheep in Swisher County. But he said they do not have enough groundwater to irrigate like they did five to ten years ago.

“So we’ve cut down on our numbers of irrigated acres. We’ve cut down on the number of livestock we have,” said Dunn. “In return, that cuts down on our bottom dollar, you know how much we gross every year. So, your gross is coming down, but all your expenses are going up…”

Dunn said it takes hundreds of dollars per acre to grow a crop, and with hundreds of thousands of acres each year, it’s risky—especially right now.

“That amount of money you’re putting into it that, you don’t know what you’re gonna get out of every year exactly,” Dunn continued. “You know, where the market is gonna be. I mean, I always said it’s, you know, worse than going to Vegas.”

Overstreet said while some crops are bringing in more money, producers have no control over market prices.

“We’re getting a little bit of price for commodities at the elevator or at the sell barn, but it’s not offsetting the prices of everything else,” said Dunn.

That’s why Overstreet said producers need to protect their investments.

“We have an irrigation well go down where we’re trying to maximize yield on a cornfield. And, you know, we could get a substantial hit to our, our yield coming out of that field and when we’ve got all of our money already invested, and we lose money right at the end, that’s pretty hard to take. ” said Overstreet. “So, I think crop insurance is a must.”