New realities

It all happened so quickly. We started this year relieved that 2019 was behind us and hoping that 2020 would be better. For agriculture the signing of trade deals and the prospects of a new WOTUS rule seemed to indicate things were finally turning around. Unlike the struggling ag economy, the general economy was booming. Little did we know how vulnerable we were. We soon started hearing about a coronavirus outbreak in China but that seemed a long ways away. We were already watching African Swine Fever spread to other countries but, thankfully, so far have been able to keep it out of the U.S. Looking back that may have given us a false sense of security. Seemingly no one was visionary enough to see what was headed our way or if they were we didn’t pay enough attention to them. Even as cases of coronavirus started popping up in the U.S. I don’t think many of us thought it would come to this. Most of us can’t think of anything that has impacted every aspect of our lives to this extent. Even the days following 911 weren’t like this. In those dark days many sought comfort in churches. Today many of those churches are closed. No one could have imagined that the U.S. and many other countries around the world would be shut down. Things that just a few weeks ago we took for granted like going out to eat or finding food and toilet paper at the store, now seem like luxuries. To make things worse we don’t know how long this will last. It’s one thing if it lasts a few weeks but if it lasts for several months or more then that becomes a new reality for all of us. County fairs, water parks, little league games might not be part of our summer this year. Already practices like “social distancing”, unheard of just weeks ago, have become a way of life. While it’s important NOT TO PANIC, let’s face it, we’re all concerned and in some cases scared. Lives are at risk, people are dying, jobs are being lost and our way of life has been drastically changed. Some say we are over reacting. Only time will tell. In the meantime it is better to error on the side of caution until we know for sure. We hope this will be over soon and we can get our lives back to “normal” but let’s face it, some things will never be the same. Not all businesses will recover, some stores won’t re-open. This crisis has been described, and rightfully so, as a war. While our country has certainly fought many wars in its history, this one is different. We are fighting an invisible enemy and while we struggle to attain and utilize the tools and methods we THINK will help us win, to be honest we don’t know for sure. What we do know for sure is, like in past wars, we need to work TOGETHER. Politicians pointing fingers and casting blame for political purposes, do us no good. It doesn’t matter if you are an R or a D or an I. This virus doesn’t care. It’s past time to check our politics at the door and come together to fight this virus. Government at its best can only do so much. Now more than ever we need our government to be at its best. A crisis brings out the best and worst in people. Hoarding, price gouging and political grandstanding are visible signs of the worst. Caring for and sharing with others, public/private partnerships and making sacrifices are examples of the best. So far we have seen both. Once again I’m glad I live in rural America. For one thing, social distancing is easier here than it is in large urban areas. Thankfully we live in a country that can feed itself. Our farmers and ranchers, so often taken for granted, are actually our first line of national defense. Imagine those countries that are dealing with COVID 19 and are also dependent on other countries for their food. Hopefully a greater appreciation for our farmers and ranchers will be one of the things that comes out of this crisis. Speaking of dependence, this crisis will hopefully be a wake up call about our dependence on China for much of our medicines and medical supplies. That needs to change and that production needs to be brought back to the U.S. Other changes are coming and some were already on the way. On line shopping and home food deliveries will probably become more of the rule than the exception. I may never get on board with elbow bumping but I’m willing to give us hand shaking if it will keep us safer. Perhaps the most important lesson this crisis will teach us is not to rely so heavily on technology and systems. This may be an especially important lesson for our millennials who have grown up with more technology than those of us who are baby boomers. They are tools that can certainly help but are not full proof. They are made and run by imperfect humans, like we all are. Ask a farmer who if honest will tell you that for all their experience, knowledge and technology, they are dependent on God’s blessings to live, survive and produce. As we all are. Sometimes it takes a crisis to teach and remind us of that.