Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015 In the Review Mirror

This is the last column of 2015. It is hard to believe that once again I am here with another whole year in the rear view mirror. I would really like to pull over into the right lane or even the shoulder for a while and get out of the passing lane. Time seems like it keeps building up speed and passing faster and faster all the time. Needless to say, 2015 was a blur.
On a personal level it sure was a momentous year. My family survived a knee surgery and recovery. Basketball season has gone a lot better at my house so far this year (that knocking on wood sound you hear is me). We have also experienced half of a senior year complete with the last football game and the successful completion of a senior exit project. Oh and there was that whole college acceptance letter thing too. I have a feeling that the last semester of the senior year is an even bigger roller coaster.
As far as the whole world of agriculture goes, 2015 will not go down as a banner year. We all knew this type of a year was coming but I can’t imagine any of us were ready for it. The market analysts thought it was a few months to a year away. 2015 became what 2016 was supposed to be. The two most unpredictable things I know are weather and crop markets and both of them lived up to the billing.
I know I am only speaking for my little part of the Flint Hills but this year was marked with extreme swings in precipitation. I heard this morning that 2015 will go down as one of the five wettest and maybe even the second wettest years on record. Those of us living here know that the rain was not spread out over the entire twelve months but came in basically two months; the rest of the year was pretty dry.
I am not complaining, I generally don’t complain about moisture, we did have enough and at the right time. Crop yields were really good for the corn and passable for the beans and we had plenty of grass and hay. Sure we were a month late getting the beans planted and the hay baled, but it is easier to figure out what to do with too much rather than too little rain. This summer was an odd year and one that presented many challenges,
Thank goodness we did raise decent crops because it would have been really bad if we had not. I am sure we are all painfully aware of what happened to nearly all of our commodity markets this past year. We may have raised a good crop but the bottom line was pretty thin. The cattle market wasn’t much better and we finally seem to be seeing the downturn that has been expected for a long time now,
To be honest, things don’t look too rosy for 2016 either. This past fall and early winter I have visited with many farmers, ranchers, economists and Ag business people and all are feeling the pinch and no one sees much relief in the coming year. I think the only hope most of us have is the knowledge that the markets are unpredictable and there is a good chance the long-term forecasts could be wrong.
I know, I am not very uplifting and it almost seems like being on the edge of the thunderstorm. The western sky is dark and menacing, the wind is picking up and the first big drops are starting to hit the ground. Things don’t look good. However, I have not met anyone who is ready to give up. We all cuss and discuss this past year and we start to speculate about next year and that is when it happens.
The conversation about the current year usually wraps up with someone saying something like, “I guess it could have been worse.” Then the discussion about the upcoming year usually turns to a determination to not let the situation get us down and suddenly optimism breaks out. I am not saying anyone is giddy with anticipation for the next year but most of us still have hope for it.
That is why I like being around my fellow farmers and ranchers, no matter how dark the horizon might be there is hope. We know that, of all the professions in this world, we can least afford to give up. With a hungry world we must plow on and plant the next year’s crop. The idea of giving up is not anywhere in our heads. Yes, there may be storm clouds on the horizon but with the storm comes the rain and rain is a good thing. So bring on 2016 and its weather and crop markets, I am ready.

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