|Food prices are expected to be close to historical average this year. |
|U.S. drought will affect food prices more for the countries we export to than for our own consumers.|
|Those in agriculture need support of consumers, governmental programs and ag organizations.|
Looking over the headlines lately, it’s been a bit depressing, agriculturally speaking. Stories about drought, failed crops, suffering livestock and rising food prices are pervasive in almost every newspaper, magazine, website and newscast you read or watch. No doubt, it’s going to be tough getting through the next few months as the effects of the drought shake out. In three or four months, though, it will be cold outside. Farmers and ranchers in Missouri will be planning for a new year, a better year than 2012.
Sometimes it takes a bad year to truly appreciate a good year, and despite all the bad news, there are some bright spots. (After all, farmers are optimists. They have no choice if they are to work with Mother Nature.) In southeast Missouri, it’s being reported that due to irrigation, farmers there will have some of the best corn yields in the country this year. Of course, given the drought, average yields are much lower, but good news is good news, no matter how small. And while commodity prices are increasing, food price increases are expected to be close to the historical average this year and just slightly above that next year, according to the USDA. That is better news than expected for consumers.
If you look beyond our borders, the ability for the U.S. to persevere during this drought is an eye-opener. Our grocery store shelves are full, yet food security in other countries is elusive. It is true that the U.S. drought will affect food prices more for the countries we export farm products to than our own consumers. The spike in global food prices in 2007-08 caused food riots in some countries.
With the world population expected to reach nine billion in the next four decades, an additional 100 million in the U.S., we will need to grow more with less. Those in agriculture have been honing efficiencies to increase yields with less fertilizer, fuel and land for decades. The last major drought in the mid-50s had a much greater impact on yields and food prices than the equally severe drought of 2012. But today’s challenges are still daunting, and those in agriculture will need the support of consumers, governmental programs and agriculture organizations.
I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and I believe farmers and ranchers are a tenacious bunch. Their livelihoods begin at square one every spring. They plant and wait to see what Mother Nature is going to dish out. Like 2012, it isn’t always easy, but they know, just as sure as the sun rises, that the season will end and the cycle of life will begin again. Animals will be born and crops will be planted; both will grow. We need to be patient as that happens, support farmers and ranchers and understand that it will take all of them — smaller farmers, larger farmers, urban farmers, even small gardeners — to put this dry season behind us and work to meet the food, fiber and fuel needs in the next 40 years. Farmers and ranchers are a resourceful group if we allow them to be.
The good news is this season will soon be over, good or bad, and a new one will begin.