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What 2015 will bring

Upper Midwest agriculture is big and diverse. No two years are ever quite the same. But some basic themes and issues are always with us, and they create a recurring pattern familiar to everyone involved with ag in the region. So, like Agweek read...

Jonathan Knutson

Upper Midwest agriculture is big and diverse. No two years are ever quite the same. But some basic themes and issues are always with us, and they create a recurring pattern familiar to everyone involved with ag in the region. So, like Agweek readers, I have a pretty good big-picture idea of what 2015 will bring.

At times it will be too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Crops, pastures and livestock will suffer, and being a farmer and rancher will be no fun at all. But sometimes the weather will cooperate, and ag will be enjoyable.

Crop and livestock prices will bounce around like an empty grain truck on a washboard gravel road. Prices might end the year higher or lower or stay roughly the same. But they'll be volatile, and perplexed ag producers will ponder when and how much to sell.

Implementation of the 2014 farm bill will bring challenges. Some previously obscure provision likely will jump to the front-burner, creating controversy and confusion.

At least one foreign government will do something that upsets U.S. ag producers. It might be a trade sanction on U.S. ag imports; it might be something that boosts that country's ag exports at the expense of U.S. farmers. There will be finger-pointing galore.

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Indignant environmentalists will criticize some aspect of U.S. ag production. Indignant farm groups will respond. Both sides will insist they occupy the moral high ground and have science on their side.

Some additive or drug used by livestock producers will create controversy. Knowledgeable, well-meaning people will disagree on whether the product should be used.

Farmers and ranchers will lament that Americans in general are increasingly out of touch with modern ag practices. Some of the farmers and ranchers will try, often through social media, to change that.

Farmers and landowners will continue to struggle to arrive at fair, equitable rental rates. Impartial experts will continue to stress that both sides need to understand the other party's viewpoint.

More aging baby-boomers will retire or phase out their duties after long, productive careers in agriculture. They'll be replaced by talented young people who will go on to long, productive careers of their own.

Technology will continue to become even more important and commonplace. Producers will look for high-tech tools and practices that help them become more efficient and profitable.

Farms and ranches will keep getting bigger and fewer. Some involved in regional ag will say that's a bad thing. Others will say it's neither good nor bad.

Getting started in farming or ranching will remain virtually impossible without help from an existing producer. But young people who enjoy ag and want to make a career in it have many options.

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That's the big-picture look. As for details and specifics, well, my crystal ball gets fuzzy there. If yours is a little clearer, drop me a line.

Good luck in 2015 to you and your farms, ranches and agribusinesses.

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