I would like to wish everyone in agriculture a healthy and prosperous 2009. Hopefully, it will be better — most assuredly it will be different — than 2008, with its hurricanes, roller coaster commodity and fuel prices and stock market woes. With the events of 2008 still fresh in our minds, here are some thoughts on the coming year.
Fertilizer prices - May they plunge as quickly as the Dow did in September.
Fuel prices - That we can fill our pickup trucks in 2009 without having to take out small business loans.
Lending - Community and regional banks are on sound financial footing, and money for crop loans will be there. But lenders say they will be looking very closely at each producer's cash flow situation. A loan that won't cash flow won't be made. With many crops barely penciling out because of low prices and high input costs, something has to give.
Ninja loans - One contribution to the stock market crash of 2008 was excessive writing of jokingly-called ninja loans, mortgage loans for people with essentially no income, job or assets. But it's no joke that we need a return to personal responsibility in America. Households making $45,000 a year simply can't afford half-million-dollar homes.
National Agricultural Statistics Service - A little Windex for their crystal ball? Even NASS admits its rice production estimate for the United States is probably too low. Why has it taken so long to confirm it?
Farmers - May they make a good crop — it's the only thing they have some control over each year.
Farming - That more people will realize that farming is hard work.
Organic farming - That more people will realize that organic farming is even harder — and riskier — work.
Ethanol - Let's get the switchgrass-to-ethanol show on the road. We need technology, land, farmers and production plants.
Biodiesel - Is there a cheap oilseed out there we can grow in the winter?
Cotton - Two words, runaway demand, would be music to the ears of cotton bulls.
The weather - Farmers praying for hurricanes because they need the rain is simply not going to cut it. This year, how about let's go back to having four distinct seasons. You remember don't you — fall, winter, spring and summer? We used to have those.
Weed resistance - Three things come to mind — new technology, stewardship of that technology, and when the heck is the industry going to release some new herbicides?
The boll weevil - Even if a Hollywood actor decides to take up his cause, it will probably be too late to save this critter.
Global warming - We need more skepticism and debate, and please, don't relocate any polar bears to Antarctica.
Grocery stores - Commodity prices have come down, why haven't our grocery bills?
College football - We need a playoff, no bones about it.