Ag Instructor Vic Martin: Likely Ag Stories of 2017

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Great Bend Tribune
Published January 1, 2017

2017 is here and after a tumultuous 2016, here’s hoping for a prosperous, happy New Year.  As we enter a new year, let’s take a brief look at the potential stories of the year.

  • Weather – Really, there isn’t need for an explanation.  Weather, for good or ill is always a story of the year in agriculture.  However, here it will be interesting to keep an eye on weather across the corn, wheat, and soybean regions around the globe.  And this has a potential impact on many of the other potential stories.
  • Prices – This broad category includes predicted downward pressure on land values which has impacts on access to capital and overall net worth.  Commodity prices, of both inputs and outputs, will present continued challenges for profitability.  Efficiency and planning will be essential again this year, not just for profitability but for many to just be able to stay in business.  Prices may result in an increase in soybean acreage across portions of the Corn Belt, or not.  On the plus side, demand for most commodities is strong but much depends on the output of countries in the Southern Hemisphere and the relative strength of the dollar.
  • Rural economy – See Prices.  As farmers suffer economically, so does the rural economy.  This impacts everything from the local café and hardware store to chain stores in larger communities and charitable giving.
  • Taxes – This is more specifically for Kansas.  Over the last several years, many producers have seen dramatic increases in property taxes.  The State of Kansas is dealing with close to a billion dollar shortfall over the next eighteen months.  This will most definitely impact agriculture and rural Kansas.
  • Water – We will continue to deal with a lack of potable water for people, livestock, and crops in many regions of the world.  Last year gave our state a little breathing room but every Kansan knows drought will return.  The state, region, and many parts of the country will be confronted with water issues and have to plan for an uncertain future. 
  • Climate change – Will weather patterns mirror the last several years?  Will ice caps and sheets continue to decline?  Will weather extremes again characterize weather?
  • Biotechnology – The war on the safety of GMO crops will continue regardless of facts.
  • Organic – See Biotechnology.  The debate over nutrition and safety is here to stay.
  • Trade – We as a country exported over four billion bushels of grain and other commodities in 2016.  Livestock producers are similarly more and more reliant on exports.  Agriculture lives in a very competitive export environment so the position of the new Administration on trade overall could have significant impacts on commodity exports and income.
  • Farm Bill – Congressional leaders are promising to start work on the next Farm Bill early.  Reports are further cuts to agricultural programs, SNAP, and even decoupling SNAP from the Farm Bill.  It will be interesting to follow if Congress actually gets to this.
  • President Trump – There simply is a dearth of information about the next President’s policy regarding agriculture and rural America so it will be wait and see.  Items such as trade, tariffs, taxes, and healthcare will have the potential to impact rural America in a big way. 

Naturally, there is much more of interest.  Here’s hoping for a good year for agriculture.