The past year ended with a bit of good news.
Iowa land prices stabilized in 2019, according to the annual Land Value Survey conducted by Iowa State University and the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.
It appears that fears that land values would collapse akin to what happened in the lamented 1980s have not materialized thus far in the economic downturn. The reality is farmers have their economic necks stuck out farther than before as uncertainty builds greater risk for farmers.
A bevy of public and private outlook meetings and webinars that will be held throughout winter can introduce farmers to different practices that may help them financially. An uptick in the farm economy will help most of all.
These 2020 hoped-for developments might change things around:
1. Be it resolved that the United States and China quickly finalize an end to their nasty trade fight. When it’s over, the Chinese respond to domestic consumer pressure and dramatically increase purchases of U.S.-produced hogs and soybeans.
2. That Midwest weather returns to something that resembles normalcy after a 2019 that produced rainfall records in both Iowa and Minnesota. The year hopefully will be considered a fluke and not a trend and the meteorologists and scientists are wrong when they predict that we should expect more of the same as climate change plays a greater role in shaping the weather.
3. That the work done by Extension researchers and farmers yields breakthroughs involving the establishment of a viable third crop to make farmers less dependent on mono-crop production. Small grains and alfalfa are well-established, but the potential for industrial hemp and other alternatives remains mostly untapped.
4. That milk producers take the market bull by the horns and use the power of their production to demand and receive a fair price for raw milk. Working together, dairy producers could spend 2020 establishing a collective supply management program that would lift raw milk prices to a profitable level.
5. That comparisons between the current economic downturn and the 1980s farm crisis become less frequent. It’s a different era with different and far better outcomes.
6. That lenders – optimistic about farming’s future and recognizing the need to help beginning and transitional farmers get a foothold in the industry – liberally grant operating loans. The alternative is a continued loss of farmers and erosion in the viability of rural communities.
7. That any farmer who feels besieged and isolated by financial problems reach out for help. Assistance can come from friends willing to lend an ear to professionals available locally and statewide.
8.That farming lose its place among the nation’s most dangerous professions. The number of farmers and workers maimed or killed in accidents remains alarmingly high.
9. That all politicians running for state and national offices pay more than lip service to farming issues in their campaigns. Agriculture will receive attention in the runup to the Iowa presidential caucuses, but little after that.
10. That the Environmental Protection Agency stop fighting President Donald Trump’s tepid support for biofuels. The EPA is cutting the Renewable Fuels Standard off at its knees despite the president’s apparent wishes.