Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Here I Come!

Here we are standing right on the starting line of a new year. I don’t know about you but I feel like one of those skiers at the gate of the giant slalom. It is that moment when nothing has happened yet but in a flash the flags (or months) will be flying by. Then all of the sudden, just as quickly as it started, you are standing at the bottom looking back at another year.
What will 2016 bring? I have no idea. If I knew what was going to happen I would be buying contracts on the commodity markets, buying shares on Wall Street and heading to Las Vegas to place bets on the winners of the World Series and Super Bowl. Then the farm could be a tax write off. Well, maybe not, because I would know what to plant, when to plant it and how to market it.
In any case, 2016 is a mystery to all of us. There are long range  predictions on the weather. I have not picked up a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac but I intend too at some point. I find their predictions just as insightful and accurate as any. It always puzzles me why we put so much into long range forecasts when our weathermen can’t even get it right 24 hours out. I am glad they whiffed on winter storm Goliath especially when they were so sure we would get lots of snow. I guess I better keep that in mind when they miss the other way on the next storm.
Weather is such a mystery and always the unknown factor or risk to those of us in agriculture. We start into each year with the hope that the weather will be favorable and we deal with what we get. I am not sure at all what to expect other than here in Kansas we often live with the extremes and our average weather is only the spot in between those extremes. As my wise old father says, “you can’t do anything about the weather, so why worry about it.”
I used to think the weather was the most unpredictable thing we dealt with in agriculture and it used to be. However, I am now convinced that the commodity markets are the most unpredictable thing we deal with. My bachelor’s degree is in agricultural economics and I have a lot course work with commodity markets. I was sure that I would bring home what I learned in college and teach Dad a thing or two. Instead I learned that experience is far more important than anything you learn out of a textbook.
Youthful exuberance led me to believe that all markets ran in cycles and therefore could be explained. I am not sure that was ever true but I am absolutely sure that is not true in this day and age. Weather patterns maybe extreme but they pale in comparison with the commodity markets. Maybe the best evidence of this is that weather is a part of what goes into the prices of grains and livestock.
So now I have told you everything that you already know, weather and markets are unpredictable and we have no idea what they will bring in 2016. At this rate I will qualify to be a weatherman or a market analyst. The weather will have periods of cold, mostly in the winter, and periods of heat, mostly in the summer. Precipitation will be heavy at times and sparse at other times. We will have snow and it will be less than average or more than average or somewhere in between.
The markets will be favorable for some and not so much for others. Prices will rise and fall and we will have no idea why. No matter how high the prices get they will not be good enough for some sellers and not matter how much they drop they will never be cheap enough for some buyers. I don’t know what to expect but I do know that if you are consistent with your predictions, you will eventually be right.
No I have no idea what 2016 will bring for me or my farm and I think that is a good thing. Life is unpredictable and we can both deal with that unpredictability and adapt to it or we can worry and be miserable.  I think the biggest key for all of us is to take each day as it comes and be grateful that we are here to see it. Now let’s push away from the gate and watch the months whiz by, see you in December.

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