By Gary Truitt
As 2018 winds down, it is time to admit that it has been a year of more pessimism than optimism. Even the farmer attitude surveys that measure such things have indicated a lot of us have had the blues about the farm economy. This is not surprising given the trade war with China, falling grain prices, and the stalemate on the Farm Bill. As we come to the end of the year, there may be an improvement in our outlook. Some progress on trade, apparent movement on the Farm Bill, yearlong sales of E-15, new beneficial tax law changes, and very good yields for corn and soybean crops have begun to improve our outlook. The latest Purdue/CME Barometer of farmer attitudes was flat. “If you look at those from a longer-term perspective, the Index of Future Expectations is back in the neighborhood of where we were last spring before the trade disruptions hit,” said Jim Mintert, director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture.
Yet, there is one group that is very bullish on the future of agriculture: the entrepreneurs who are starting new ag businesses and are betting millions of dollars that things are going to get better. At the AgriNovus Indiana Summit last month the excitement in the room was almost palpable by investors and ag startup firms. We have also seen this in the large number of new firms that are exhibiting for the first time at the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo.
While it is not time to sing Happy Days are Here Again, it may be time to look at 2019 with a bit more optimism. I have read several opinion pieces lamenting the fact that farmers are having to make changes because of the tough economic times. Isn’t that what we have had to do all along — find a way to farm cheaper, more efficiently, focus on profits as well as production, and find a way to survive? Those changes may not be easy or pleasant to make; and, while we may loathe to admit it, in some cases they may be good for us.
New technology is giving us some tools to do more with less. For the past 10 months, I have been focused on putting together a three day expo that will showcase the tools and technology to help farmers make the changes they will need to survive in 2019 and beyond. Have I been successful? Come to the West Pavilion of the State Fairgrounds from December 11-13 and decide for yourself.
The future of agriculture will belong to those who believe in it and are willing to invest in it. There are a lot of smart, young people with some deep pocket investors who are already there. We need our current generation of farmers to be there as well. It is time to get excited about the future of agriculture.