N.C. State agricultural economist Nick Piggott paints a bright picture for agriculture in the U.S. economy. Piggott was the keynote speaker during the Agricultural Development Forum, Jan. 31, at the Southern Farm Show, where he presented an agricultural economic and policy outlook for 2013.
In an interview following his presentation, Carolina-Virginia Farmer discussed a few of the finer points of his talk with him.
"A central point is that U.S. agriculture is a bright spot in the whole U.S. economy," Piggot said. "We have had near record net farm income year after year. It is due to productivity gains and science-based technologies that have been able to do well even in the face of all the challenges we've had. For example, in 2011 there was flooding and in 2012 there was drought. We still did pretty well."
Piggot noted that the industry has also been able to handle itself well under the pressure put on it by a tough economy, even in times when it has had less support from the government than in the past. For example, direct payments to farmers have come down, he noted, but farmers have been able to remain profitable in spite of that lowered commitment from the government.
On the other hand, government policy has been supportive in many cases. Fortunately, farmers have made the most of it.
"Ag policy has certainly influenced how farmers have done with the renewable fuels standard, but even having said that, farmers have certainly risen to the occasion and it is one of the industries where we have positive returns," Piggott said. "Returns to land continue to go up. Agriculture is an industry that requires less government support but can continue to feed our nation. It can also stand up to the challenge of feeding essentially another 2 billion people in the world by the year 2050 -- which is an opportunity in terms of export markets. So that is a bright spot.
"Most other things we hear about in our economy is recession and depression and, fortunately, in agriculture that is just not the case.
Editor's note: Read more about Piggott's outlook comments in the April issue of Carolina-Virginia Farmer magazine.