WORTHINGTON — Happy New Year everyone!
Reflecting back on 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has to be the biggest news of the past year, maybe the new decade and possibly the whole century. It has caused untimely deaths worldwide and totally disrupted supply chains for toilet paper, meat, appliances and protective wear (just to name a few). It also created and developed personal attitudes in most of us about political, religious and humanitarian needs (just to name a few).
There are different views on how a person develops their own attitudes and personalities, but I think we could all agree that personal experiences play a role in the development of individual attitudes. I cannot think of anyone who has told me this past year, “Mike, I sure did enjoy the events that COVID has created.”
I have had people tell me that COVID has devastated their family and created a bad attitude in them. I can also say I have been told by others that COVID was devastating to their family, but it also created a new thought process for them to appreciate things more.
Both of these examples are real. They have a common thread, but a much different outcome. COVID will be the top story for the world in 2020.
Farming has been no different than these examples for our whole community. COVID has disrupted and threatened farm businesses, their very livelihood and farm lifestyles. From a farm perspective, 2020 is still developing into a final copy. Most farmers began 2020 looking at their seventh year of depressed commodity prices and cash flows that simply did not work.
That dismal outlook grew even darker as COVID disrupted the world. There was a short period of time where there was no place to haul milk, butcher a pig or sell your corn.
Government officials elected to step in and stimulate the economy, which meant most everyone — including farms and businesses — were getting some funds in their bank accounts. Government assistance programs for producers became available when packing plants and ethanol plants shuttered and then closed with no advanced notice. Coronavirus care packages were released three separate times during the year to Main Street businesses and to farms. There were payments for wages, depressed grain prices, plummeting livestock prices and horrid milk prices. These payments saved farms and downtown businesses from immediate shutdowns.
Since that time, many commodity prices have begun to increase, boosting final estimated farm income levels. This improvement is welcomed, and land grant colleges are now reporting estimated farm incomes increasing in 2020. It makes sense that farming should look more optimistic for the first time in seven years. That is a good scenario for our local businesses and banks. Producers should be able to pay back some extra loans and purchase some well-needed items to continue farming.
Those who are well-versed in the world of agriculture know things will be different tomorrow. They could keep improving, or they could start to revert backwards. Farm prices and weather change daily.
Farmers don’t get to set their price for commodities, or the weather they would like for the day.
Producing crops and livestock is hard work and has a risky, unpredictable future. The reward seldom equates to the risk of the investment.
I sure am thankful someone out there wants to do the hard work and take that risk to feed us all. We all like to eat and all need to be thankful for the largest, safest and most abundant supply of quality food in the world.
COVID disrupted, but could not break, the agricultural chain in American farm country. For that I am thankful. I suggest we let a farmer know that before we eat today!