The Planted Row: Let's all take a deep breath

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

The ag world is experiencing a stressful year, to say the least.

Many of us started the year thinking that we’d have a new trade deal with China by now. We were sadly mistaken, and the loss of one of our largest overseas markets for ag products is still being felt in commodity prices.

An extremely wet winter and spring caused massive flooding in some areas and delayed planting in many others. Some fields weren’t able to be planted at all. Now that the crop is behind schedule, it is at risk should we experience an earlier-than-normal frost.

Further frustrating farmers is the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released higher acreage and yield estimates than expected by farmers and market analysts — leading to drops in market prices.

It’s no surprise that tempers are high in Farm Country, and some cracks in our good natures are starting to show up.

Last week, the USDA pulled its employees off the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour because one of the staffers received a threat, and that threat was treated as credible.

I’m sorry to say that I’m not really surprised. In recent social media posts and comments, farmers have made their displeasure known, and their anger level feels pretty high.

In the best of years producers are subject to so many forces outside their control. In a year like this one, the stressors must be infuriating. Add to that the fact that our political disagreements are reaching a fever pitch as we enter a presidential campaign at a time when our country is more polarized than it has been in decades, and it’s not hard to imagine how someone could lose their temper.

That’s why it is so important to take a deep breath and try to maintain some perspective.

In all probability, the USDA is not trying to harm the ag industry in its reports. It’s simply basing its estimates on the best information it has — farmer surveys and satellite data. Taking our frustrations out on Department of Agriculture staffers is both harmful and pointless. They’re trying to give us an accurate picture of what’s happening in the country’s fields using the best methods available to them. Threatening them makes it harder for them to do their jobs, which means it’s less likely you’re going to get accurate information from them. Also, it likely won’t accomplish anything other than getting yourself in a lot of trouble.

As for the trade war, I don’t think the Trump administration’s intentions are nefarious. The president seems to genuinely think our country will be much better off with a renegotiated trade agreement with China. I don’t think he’s trying to destroy our Chinese ag markets. He just seems to think his confrontational negotiating style will get us a better trade deal. Whether or not I agree with his approach, it’s hard for me to fault him on his intentions. Certainly, he’s been generous with taxpayer dollars in the Market Facilitation Program meant to ease some of the burdens of the trade war on producers.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for us is to remain calm when interacting with people from the opposite end of the political spectrum. It’s important to remember that they, like us, want the best for our country — they just have a different idea about how to achieve that.

We’re in a difficult time. The nation is at odds with itself. The ag industry is facing some serious challenges. If we’re going to get through this, we need to remain calm, address our concerns in a constructive manner, and find ways we can work together.