First, a very Merry Christmas to all. This week let’s wrap up our look at the top agriculture stories of 2016. These are in no particular order and your list may vary from this one.
• Trade – Agricultural commodity groups from wheat to cattle and the AFB are huge proponents of trade. We as a nation produce huge surpluses that have to go somewhere. Agricultural leadership recognizes the importance of expanding markets, particularly in the Pacific Rim. Livestock producers, especially pork and beef, are looking to Asia, especially beef, as American meat consumption, again especially beef, has plateaued or is gradually decreasing. Trade deals, such as the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, are strongly supported by most all agricultural groups. Therefore, the populist resistance to these agreements, particularly as expressed by both major party Presidential candidates, makes the list which leads to the next story.
• The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States – Your politics aside, this is a major story for agriculture and rural America for one simple reason. If you search and try to find out information about the President-Elect’s position on agriculture, you really won’t find out much except for the previous point. That and Mr. Trump’s position on immigrants, which depending on how it moves forward could have major ramifications regarding labor availability and agriculture.
• Farm Bill – Congress wants to move forward and start on the next Farm Bill and try to get it done on time. There are rumblings that support to producers will be further decreased. And there is again talk of decoupling SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, from the next bill. While not directly part of the Farm Bill, sectors of Congress are also balking at disaster aid.
• Taxes – Simply, land valuations and mill levies have resulted in major increases in taxes for producers. Some have seen increases in the property taxes of several hundred percent over the last several years.
• The rural economy – As agriculture suffers so do the communities in rural Kansas. Many small business survive or disappear based on the economic health of producers and for most right now, producers don’t have money to spend.
• Ethanol and renewable energy- Wind, solar, and ethanol are fairly bright spots in the rural economy. The EPA has upheld renewable standards. Wind and solar and price competitive and even cheaper than coal.
• GMOs and biotechnology – This makes the list every year. Advances in GMO crops and in animal husbandry are greatly aiding production and efficiency. On the other side, the war against GMOs isn’t going away and is heating up.
Naturally there are many more stories. Next week – what to expect in 2017.