Loose Ends

As we draw closer to Memorial Day we are finally seeing signs of life returning to normal.  The number of COVID cases continues to go down and restrictions are finally starting to be eased.  It will be interesting to see how many things in our lives will go back to the way they were pre-pandemic and which changes stay with us.  Restaurants are finally reopening if they can find workers.  People are starting to travel again and in person events are coming back. Next month I’ll be traveling to Des Moines for World Pork Expo, an event that has been cancelled the last two years, first for African Swine Fever concerns and last year for COVID precautions.  County and state fairs will soon be back as will the Farm Progress Show later this summer.  Part of what has been missed this past year are the face to face conversations that take place at these events.  No doubt as people get back together this year they will be talking about the higher commodity prices but also about some of the things they are hearing in Washington D.C. Despite assurances from the Biden Administration to protect agriculture, many are concerned about possible tax changes for stepped up basis, capital gains and land exchanges.  As much as farmers and ranchers want infrastructure improvements they don’t want those tax changes.  Missouri Farm Bureau President Garrett Hawkins told me recently that those changes would be deal breakers for many of his members.  The Administration has also said they will use a voluntary approach to reach climate goals.  That sounds good but voluntary isn’t always voluntary.  In the NFL, players are often expected to participate in voluntary workouts making them basically mandatory.  Other than renaming the 30 X 30 plan, now calling it America the Beautiful, details have not been given.  We still haven’t received RVO numbers from EPA for the biofuels industry.  We haven’t heard much about trade including when the Administration will engage Congress on renewing Trade Promotion Authority.  Despite criticism of how the Trump Administration dealt with China, President Biden has made no changes in trade policy with China despite reversing numerous other Trump directives.  So far so good as China keeps buying large amounts of U.S. grain but what happens when those sales slow down and our trade deficit continues to grow.  Is inflation and higher interest rates around the corner?  Can agriculture attract and retain the labor force it needs?   It’s a good things we are getting back together again.  Obviously we have a lot to talk about!