Ag Agenda: "Optimism: A Farmer’s Stock-in-Trade"Posted on May 1, 2014
By Bob Stallman
When we think of farmers we don’t necessarily think of romantics, but don’t let their typical reserve in showing emotions fool you. A farmer’s heart skips a beat when he or she sees a newborn calf, the budding of fruit trees and the sun rising higher each day.
The Future’s So Bright
Livestock producers face sunnier prospects than they have had in years. Cattle and hog prices are at record highs. Milk, poultry and egg prices also are good. The sector is poised to see a positive supply and demand balance.
On the crops side, USDA announced at the end of March that farmers intend to plant nearly 92 million acres of corn this year, even though prices have fallen. That is a drop from the last couple of years, but it would be the fifth-largest corn acreage since 1944. Soybean and cotton plantings are set to increase, and projected wheat plantings are down just 1 percent from last year.
There is reason to feel good about the prognosis for agriculture well beyond this year. The pace of innovation in farming and ranching is tremendous. The application of information technology promises ongoing productivity gains.
Approvals of biotech traits, such as new herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans, are moving forward. Agricultural companies have as many exciting products in the pipeline as ever.
People may not think of high-tech when they think of agriculture, but they should.
Youth Isn’t Always Wasted on the Young
Each year, Farm Bureau surveys about 1,000 young farmers and ranchers from across the country. In March we released the 22nd annual survey, which found that 91 percent of young people in agriculture are more optimistic about farming than they were five years ago. An equal percentage say they expect to be lifelong farmers.
Just as promising, 88 percent say they would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. That is reason for all of us to feel hopeful, because the nation will need new crops of farmers and ranchers to keep growing our food.
Of course, we all lean toward a feeling of optimism when we are young and “invincible.” The possibilities seem endless; the threats, easily conquered. However, farmers, even young ones, see things a little differently. They are optimistic, but they are also pragmatic. Even in the spring, they remain mindful of the challenges they face, such as the growing list of federal regulations that increase the cost and complexity of farming. Availability of labor, water and—especially for younger producers—land are also concerns.
Even so, farmers and ranchers of all ages and types are looking across the land as the weather warms and the days lengthen, and they are thinking that if the weather is right their yields just might set a new record. If prices are good, they might buy a few more acres or fix up the old barn.
It takes hope and courage to begin a new farming season in anticipation of a plentiful harvest and prices good enough to sustain the farm and the family for another year.
With credit (or apologies) to Alexander Pope: Hope springs eternal in the heart of the farmer and rancher.
Editorial courtesy of AFBF President, Bob Stallman.