Happy New Year

The start of a new year usually brings with it the hope of better things to come.  That’s especially true this year as many couldn’t wait to put 2019 behind them.  However many of the issues that made last year such a struggle will probably carry over into 2020.  Predicting the future is always risky but here are some fairly safe bets to be big stories in the coming year.

  1. Weather- Probably the top story in 2019 and while some areas are ahead of the game compared to a year ago many others are still trying to finish harvest and saturated soils have no margin for another wet spring and some meteorologists are already predicting a repeat performance.
  2. Trade- 2019 will be remembered as the year of trade wars.  Fortunately a deal with Japan was completed and USMCA looks to get done soon.  Although it seems a deal with China is finally about to happen it remains to be seen if China will honor the agreement.  History tells us to be wary.
  3. The election- The upcoming Presidential election will probably mean little gets done in Washington this year as both sides continue to attack each other.  Investigations will probably outnumber legislation.  Market facilitation payments, so important in 2019, may be in play again even with a trade deal with China.  President Trump will want to shore up his rural base by November.  Despite the troubles of 2019 it seems a majority of farmers will continue to support the President as many don’t see a better alternative on the other side.
  4. The ag economy- Trade peace offers a more positive tone as we start the new year.  If indeed demand picks up it may be enough to offset unplanted acres coming back into production this year.  After several down years all wounds won’t heal in one year but we could see a big step forward.
  5. African Swine Fever- This could be a two edged sword.  As the virus continues to spread it is creating a huge demand for protein that puts the U.S. in a favorable position to fill.  However if the disease spreads to the U.S. it will be a set back that will be felt for years as there is still no vaccine available.
  6. RFS- This is an ongoing story that figures to have more twists and turns this year. The Trump Administration failed to live up to an agreement to reallocate lost gallons due to small refinery exemptions thereby undermining the RFS.  Despite pledges to the contrary, the Administration doesn’t seem willing to significantly address the concerns of the biofuels industry.  However if the President feels it could cost him votes there could be a change as we get closer to November.
  7. Biodiesel- This could be a big rebound year for the biodiesel industry as the on again/off again tax credit is back on.  Finally having a few years of certainty should help the industry recover and grow even with the SRE concerns.
  8. Green movement- Will those pushing for change acknowledge the benefits and contributions of the biofuels industry or will they push for developing technologies and ignore our existing green fuels industry?
  9. Imitation meat-2019 saw an explosion of new products and promotion but can this new industry survive greater scrutiny and a stepped up effort by the livestock industry to tell its own story.
  10. Hemp-There still seems to be more questions than answers about the viability and potential profitability of growing hemp but there’s no denying the curiosity and interest many have.  2020 may tell us if this crop can make it on a large scale or if it is only a small niche market.

2019 is finally behind us.  Here’s to a much better year ahead!