(Rogersville, Mo.) -- The farm bill extension passed this week will not include new assistance for farmers suffering through drought.
That might discourage producers who sold off cows earlier this year. But a mild winter might mean that greener pastures are in store for livestock producers and hay farmers like Aaron Crosby, who runs James River Farms in Rogersville.
Crosby said the nine month extension doesn't inspire much confidence when planning for the next year.
"Prioity-wise, agriculture is not a priority," he said. "It's something that's brought out around election time, briefly."
The extension will keep food prices from hurting consumers but there's still no relief to the drought that stunted his hay production this summer.
"We only produced two-thirds of our normal amount of hay," he said.
Despite the grass shortage, it's been a pretty good winter for Crosby and other hay producers like Jim Kooinman. Koinman said livestock farmers are starting to feel more confident about maintaining herds.
"The majority of my hay bales are already being sold," Kooinman said.
Cattle producers in particular are taking advantage of a mild winter that has kept many pastures intact. Kooinman said he and dozens of other farmers are advertising hay on Craigslist with good results.
"If they can feed them they are doing very well with them," Crosby said. "And as long as they can feed them we can continue to supply them with hay."
The farm bill won't change much for drought stricken farmers. But hay sales could indicate a healthy cattle market.
"The cattle market it is tremendous," Coinman said. "The cattle supply is low, so I think the cattle market's going to be great in the future. It's just costing farmers a little more to feed them through this winter."
In fact, Kooinman said he doesn't even need hay to feed to his own cows because the turnips and late season grasses he planted as forage have lasted through the cold.
Crosby said the rising cost of cattle has inspired a sort of cautious optimism.
"I don't want to be overly confident because the economy's still not good," he said. "There are a lot more people that are getting out of the cattle business because of their age or because of the economy."
If a mild winter leads to a wet spring, he added, it could give farmers tools to plan for the next year.