Last week’s column addressed this year’s major stories in agriculture. But what’s in store for 2013? Remember this is just the opinion of someone not terribly gifted in prognostication. And these items are not in any particular order.
· A Farm Bill will pass. It appears that both sides want to maintain subsidies for crop insurance but at a lower level. Various assistance programs will likely be eliminated or receive reduced funding. The fiscal cliff is avoided and no one is happy.
· Unless something radically changes, Kansas will continue to lack representation on the House Agriculture Committee. This is something we had regardless of what the majority party was. Not having a seat at the table in the House makes it much more difficult to have the concerns of producers here addressed.
· Meat and poultry prices will rise significantly but not as much as we may think. Even if the drought ended tomorrow, it will take time for expansion to take place in the cattle industry. Poultry and pork can ramp up more rapidly. Pork and poultry prices will also go up but not as much and will keep beef prices from rising as much as they probably should.
· Even if the ethanol mandate is changed, significant grain stocks will still end up at ethanol plants. First, it’s unlikely the mandate will change unless the situation gets much, much worse. Second, refiners like and need the octane boost that ethanol provides.
· K-State will celebrate its 150th Anniversary. It should be a great party. If you are convinced that the government can’t do anything right, pay attention to all the information likely to come out of Manhattan in 2013. The Land Grant University System and the Cooperative Extension Service were keys in making our country the agricultural powerhouse it is. The question now is what is the future of both? Land grant institutions are under pressure to do more with less and less while needing to obtain extramural funding to do almost anything. The extension service is dealing with changing demographics, an aging rural and growing urban population, and severe budget constraints.
· Technology will continue to grow in its importance no matter what the type of agricultural production.
· The drought doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The difference between the droughts in 2011 and 2012 was the geographical area affected. 2011 was more concentrated in the southern Great Plains while 2012 also affected much of the Corn Belt. While there appears to be a good chance for easing of drought conditions overall, it doesn’t appear we are headed back to normal weather, especially in the plains.
Merry Christmas and be safe.