Ever have the feeling that the headlines you read and what the television talking heads bark out just don’t add up with what you see with your eyes?
There has been a lot of economic doom and gloom in the news lately. Sub-prime foreclosures everywhere, it seems. Gas-guzzling SUVs lining new car lots like giant picket fences. Bankruptcies up by double and triple digit percentages. The sky is supposed to be falling.
These are certainly not the best of economic times, yet driving around Fresno and seeing new SUVs around every corner makes one wonder if there are any left on the lots. Sure there are homes abandoned and for sale, but there also are sold signs in front of homes that obviously were not fire sales or sub-prime causalities. There are office-for-rent signs around and some businesses are going under, but you would hardly call it economic blight.
And of course, there are the ever present gloomy winter and fall unemployment numbers that make me chuckle. The Central Valley is agriculture, and employment is cyclical; high in the summer, low in the winter. What’s new?
It simply does not look like the world is crumbling around Fresno and other cities in the Valley. What I see just does not add up to what the headlines and talking heads are proclaiming.
It took a conversation with a young friend to put a reason behind why what the headlines were proclaiming and what my eyes were seeing were seemingly different.
It’s agriculture, dummy.
I have known the young man since before he went into high school. He has been self-employed since the day he graduated from high school and has built a very good business servicing truck fleets.
With all the doom and gloom I had been reading, I reluctantly asked him how business was going. Never better, he replied. Really? With $4 diesel, his clients are still paying his monthly bills? Absolutely.
And then he reasoned that it was because Fresno seemed to be insulated from many of the economic woes you read about nationally. Why? Agriculture, he said. Most of his clients are involved in agriculture and are doing well. Hand me a sledgehammer, so I can wake myself up.
Most Fresnans and other Central Valley residents are not directly involved in farming or ranching, yet it is agriculture and the infrastructure that supports agriculture that is somewhat isolating the Central Valley from the economic malaise that seems to prevail elsewhere.
Money generated on Valley farms turns over many times in banking, trucking, service industries, food processing, manufacturing, car dealerships and the list goes on and on.
Agricultural income has never been higher for virtually all commodities, and that is not expected to change for at least a few years. Certainly, input costs have never been higher. It is disconcerting to see $4 fuel prices; fertilizer prices going up faster than a helium bloom in a mountain updraft, and the overall escalating costs of doing business in regulation-happy California.
Nevertheless, dollars are changing hands thanks to the Valley’s agriculture. Farming is holding the Valley’s head above water economically. Those of us who live in California’s Central Valley from Bakersfield to Redding should readily recognize that and be even more thankful we live in one of the most bountiful farming areas of the world.
And don’t believe everything in the headlines or everything you hear from the talking heads.