By Gary Truitt
Back in January when 2020 started, we were all filled with anticipation on what the new year would bring. Few, if any of us, foresaw what the first half of the year has brought. So, what can we expect for the 2nd half of the year? We’ll probably see more of the same as the pandemic continues its grip on the U.S. and much of the world. Yet, there are a few trends developing as a result of the Covid 19 virus.
The Markets. Historically, what is happening in our corn and soybean fields during the growing season is what drives price direction. While this has and will continue to a certain extent, other factors far outside of agronomy are now major market forces. Trade policy, the stock market, oil pipeline shutdowns, and lockdowns are now all major market drivers. Back in February, John Zanker with Risk Management Commodities told me the virus, which was then shutting down China, would soon shut down the U.S. I did not believe him, but he looks pretty smart today. Marketing the 2020 crop, which is expected to be a big one, will present new and formidable challenges for farmers.
Farming the mailbox. The latest pile of money that Congress is considering dumping into the U.S. economy has about $20 billion for agriculture. This would be on top of the billions that have already been distributed. These levels make the farm payments of the past look like pocket change. The payments are necessary and justified, and they pale in comparison to the payments being made so some of the nation’s largest corporations. What is satisfyingly ironic is that many of the people and groups who screamed the loudest about farm subsidies were the first in line to get handouts from Uncle Sam. What all this will do the economy in the future is scary to contemplate; but, in an election year, there is no other choice.
No Big Food Scares. Have you noticed there have been no big news stories about massive food recalls, food safety scares, or toxic chemicals in the media? Even the legal attacks on glyphosate and dicamba are not getting much attention. In fact, with biotechnology playing a key role in the development of a vaccine, GMO food may see less consumer resistance. The scientific argument today is not what is in our food, but whether one should wear a mask in public. The memory of empty store shelves is still fresh in the minds of shoppers and will remain an image for the rest of the year. Beyond that, the memory will probably fade. How this will change consumers’ understanding and appreciation for our food supply system remains to be seen.
Going virtual. No field days, crop tours, fall farm shows, or most indoor farm shows will be held. Some are offering an on-line experience in an effort to make money. The organizers of these virtual events are claiming this is a new model that will replace farm shows and in-field events. This is nothing more than wishful thinking. I seriously doubt farmer participation in these events will be very high, and I certainly don’t think that, once we are able to gather again, we will choose to sit in front of a computer screen for hours.
One thing we can definitely say is that things will be different. Like it or not, we are in a new reality; and things are changing, some just temporarily and others forever. The way we do things and the way we see things are going to have to change. The key to survival is adapting.