Look for the silver lining in times like these
Those familiar with the "Farm Crisis" of the 1980s might not describe growing up on a farm/ranch at the time as a dream come true. As many current producers and those involved with agribusiness enter year seven of a prolonged multi-year down cycle (nicknamed "The Grinder"), it has many asking whether we are facing a similar crisis today and when will the bleeding end? While weather, markets, fraud, politics, and tariffs continue to dominate the headlines and compound worsening conditions, it is easy to paint a picture of doom and gloom. Without a doubt, the current economic conditions have been wreaking havoc on the financial and emotional well-being of many involved in the agriculture industry.
On a brighter note, several farmers and ranchers have discovered ways to improve efficiencies and remain profitable during these times. However, many others are struggling to do the same. Working as an ag lender, I'm part of an industry that continues to work hard for our clients to help best position them for not only survival but long-term success.
Looking back on my childhood growing up in tough economic times in agriculture in the 1980s and 1990s, luckily my mind seems to hold on to more of the good memories. The good memories were fishing trips to the stock dam, gravel road bike rides with the neighbors, riding in the tractor with dad, eating lunch with Grandpa in the combine, and working hard "together" as a family. The times were not perfect but to me it was "perfectly imperfect."
Hard times, while unfortunate, defined a generation (or two) of "survivors" and gave perspective on what really mattered in life. Working in agriculture continues to be one of the greatest privileges of my life. I take great pride in having been raised on a farm and feel very fortunate to be able to continue to work in an industry of extraordinary women and men — people of faith, fun, resilience and spirit.
I continue to believe that we are nearing a corner toward better times ahead. Agriculture is cyclical and will no doubt continue to be.
Returning to thoughts of my childhood on a farm during the times of thin margins in the 1980s-90s, I do see many comparisons to today, but not all these comparisons are negative. The most exceptional fact that still rings true today is that tough times never last forever but strong farm families do!
As we move forward through "The Grinder," each day that passes is one day closer to better markets and better margins. In the meantime, let us all be reminded of the everyday victories that are occurring all around us. Whether it be your wife's promotion, better than expected yields, a loved one beating cancer, grandkids visiting the farm to see a calf born, or a daughter's game-winning shot, may we all see life IS good. Maybe even "perfectly imperfect." One of my pastimes is reading and I couldn't help but share this quote by Paul Harvey: "In times like these, it helps to recall there have always been times like these."
While we embrace change, pray and hope for better times ahead in ag, may we all support each other and this great industry that we all represent in good times and in imperfect times. Thank you for reading and may God bless the American farmer.
Reiner works at Starion Bank in Mandan, N.D., as assistant vice president of agri-business lending. He was raised on a fifth-generation crop and livestock farm. He also serves on the Agweek Readers and Viewers Board.