Who Makes The Call?

Every year there are crop production concerns somewhere.  This year drought has hit the western and upper midwestern states very hard.  The eastern corn belt is doing much better.  Some areas may have record or near record production. No year has perfect weather everywhere.  The exercise of guessing if the good areas offset the bad areas takes place every year to some extent.  The difference this year of course is we no longer have huge stocks in reserve.  Usually the potential of a big crop is looked at as adding to an already burdensome supply and even a somewhat smaller crop doesn’t drive prices too much higher because of those same stocks.  This year we are looking at perhaps reduced production coupled with lower stocks.  That’s why markets are higher.  Good news if you have a crop to sell.  Not much solace if you don’t.  For as long as I can remember we have talked about the need for exports to sell our surplus and that will continue to be the case moving forward.  What happens though if we don’t have a surplus?  Hopefully we never have to find out.  The productivity of American agriculture has made us the breadbasket for the world.  Yes there are hungry people in this country but it’s not because of a lack of food production.  We are indeed blessed to not have to rely on other countries for our food. Unfortunately we tend to take that blessing for granted.  Imagine if this year’s drought was even more widespread.  We would be looking at a situation many of us have never really seen.  This past year has shown us how quickly food supply chains can be disrupted.  Slower distribution is one thing, lack of supply would be something much more serious.  If that ever happens, who decides when we should back off of exports?  We’ve seen the short and long term negative impact of politically motivated embargoes.  Not only did they hurt our domestic markets but in some cases they turned our customers into our competitors.  Properly functioning markets should help determine when we ration our supplies.  However if we ever were to face real concerns about our food supply then politics come into play and we see everyday how dysfunctional that is.  Consumers often complain when food prices go up even if they don’t usually know (or care) why.  Thankfully they’ve never had to wonder if there was enough food for everyone regardless of price.  Let’s hope they never do but let’s also be thankful that God has blessed us with the ability to produce our food and for those who are willing to take the risk every year when they plant the seed and raise the animals.  This year reminds us that producers are not guaranteed a great year and that sadly one producer’s disaster is another’s blessing.  Farmers know they may be on the positive side this year but on the other end the next.  That’s what makes them unique and special people.  Most of us don’t have the willingness to take the risks that are required to be a farmer or rancher. That’s why I am always thankful for those who are.