In March American Agriculturist’s “Food for Thought” column, I noted why agriculture is America’s strongest industry. Outside of the banks getting billions of Uncle Sam’s money – meaning “us” or “our” money, agriculture is the best capitalized and collateralized industry.
But you'd have to be unhuman to not worry about how this recession will impact your extended families, neighbors, friends and even yourself. And that concern – even with another big federal spending package likely to be approved by Congress today – is what I’ve been hearing more and more about.
At this week’s Pennsylvania Dairy Summit, producers commiserated over their plunging milk checks. One long-time Northeast dairy leader who was likely a young teenager during the Great Depression said: “By August, we’ll be giving it away.” I’m not sure if he was figuratively speaking, or if he was being literal. But he wasn’t smiling until I added, “with the help of an ‘Obama-nation’ check?”
Demand for higher-end milk and dairy products and exports are headed “south”, according to all the analysts. So it seems that dairy farmers will be joining their cash grain cronies struggling once again with low prices. But there were two types of farmers at that meeting: One saw only bad news; The other sought new opportunity.
Seek out the positive!
Even so, it’s more important than ever to stay focused on the positive. Farm businesses are more resilient than most. And it has to do with the strength and character bred into us and handed down as a humble, but worthy heritage.
Don’t forget that most farm input costs are coming down, too. Most of you are exceptional cost-controllers – negotiators, horse traders and hagglers. Now maybe the best time to lock in input priceds. Most importantly, farmers are the ultimate masters of “making do” when they need to.
In a few weeks, you won’t have time to listen to negative news. Your focus will be on spring, and doing what you do best – bringing forth the fruits of the earth.
2009 will bring great opportunities in agriculture. We’ll be exploring a number of them in upcoming issues. As one man said this week, “Some of the worst mistakes are made in good times; some of the best decisions are made in bad.”
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