Best of Times, Worst of Times

September 26, 2000

September 26, 2000

I pick up a big city newspaper and read the criticism of the generous support for farmers in this election year. Okay, I'll admit the support is generous. But to provide some balance to this evaluation of the situation, it might be worth taking inventory of other conditions working against the farmer.

Is your diesel fuel much more expensive? What about the LP gas drying your com? Just wait 'til you see the price tag for nitrogen fertilizer. The simple fact is the higher energy prices will cost the American farmer 3-5 billion dollars in net income this year.

Another added cost that we face is higher interest rates. With prime now up to 9½%, most farmers are now paying 10% or more. It's been a long time since interest charges were in the double digit range. Whoops! There goes another 3 or 4 billion dollars of net income. On top of what I have pointed out, we're not going to forget the fact that grain prices are really in the tank.

We can wring our hand and whine, or we can seize the opportunity to do something that will have a lasting impact on our well being. Let's get the congress to do more to help secure a growing position for ethanol as a clean source of renewable fuel. We have all the leverage now. No one wants us to be dependent on foreign nations for more than half of our energy. We have our own renewable strategic oil reserve in our cornfields if we are prepared to use it.

Our trade deficit is at a record level. Let's get rid of outdated, self defeating, unilateral trade sanctions. Now is the time.

Tax policy change could help us, too. Agriculture is so volatile that some kind of income averaging would help.

How do we get the interest rates back down? I guess we'll have to talk to Greenspan about that.

Anyhow, the point I am making is that these may be bad times in some ways, but they are good times to get some useful things done.