By Gary Truitt
This will be the year that is remembered as the 2019 crop disaster. It is the worst crop year that most reading this column have ever experienced, and it is only July. Even the few that have good crops have had difficulty planting and have suffered extreme weather conditions. While this is not the first such crop disaster in U.S. history, it is the first one in the modern era. It comes at a time of low farm income and of serious financial stress for many farm families. The trade disputes, that the U.S is involved in that have an impact on agriculture, have exacerbated things. So as farmers look for help to make it through these hard times, to whom can they turn?
The parade of politicos has already begun. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and others have taken off their suits, have put on their denim shirts, and have come trooping out to farms across the Midwest to survey the damage. Accompanied by big city media and a gaggle of their staffers anxious for a day out of the office, these vote seekers have come loaded with promises of help and aid. They then pose for photos with the farm family and make statements about how important agriculture is and how much they support it.
Forgotten at these times is fact that many of these same officials were, just a few months ago, calling for the elimination of crop insurance, the only thing that is going to keep most farmers on the land in 2019. The low interest loans that typically come along with a disaster designation will be of some help, but passage of USMCA, currently being stalled by Democrats, would help even more. If Republicans really wanted to help the soybean farms they visit this summer, then they need to get after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. He announced that countervailing duties on unfairly subsidized biodiesel imports from Argentina would be reduced significantly, while antidumping rates would remain the same. This will limit the amount of U.S. soybeans that can be used for biodiesel.
Then there is the media, who finally woke up to the fact that there is a disaster —long after it occurred. Local TV will send out their youngest female reporter who will stand in the field in her heels and gush sympathy and concern. Some place in each of these stories will be the question, “What will this mean for food prices?” That is really what her viewers want to know: will a drop in corn production mean the price of corn flakes will go up?
If I sound a bit jaded, well I guess I am. Every time we have a crisis, a crop failure, flood, drought, or whatever, the air is filled with well-meaning sympathetic bunkum. When the crisis is past, so is their concern or support for agriculture.
So, who can we turn to for some real support? I think it is us, ourselves. Farmers, ag companies, ag media, farm organizations, we all are tied together and all benefit from each other’s success. A disaster like this should bring us all together in a way that nothing else can. Together we can help each other survive, and that is about all we can do right now — just hang on. The weather will improve, the markets will improve, and agriculture will go on. So let us lift each other up, support each other’s efforts, reach out when you see someone really hurting. Most of us in agriculture have a rather independent streak, but during times like these let’s try to come together so we can all make it through.