Another year has come and gone just like that. As I get older I feel like the time only goes faster, which makes a person realize we have to cherish every moment we have in our lifetime. To be quite honest, it feels like it was just yesterday that we were talking about what could happen in 2014, but now we find ourselves talking about what did happen in 2014 and what is ahead in the new year. There is no doubt that 2014 had its fair share of ups and downs. I usually try to look at all the ups as blessings and the downs as growing opportunities!
Looking back at the year, I think we can all agree that the agriculture industry also had its fair share of ups and downs as well. There were many news makers this last year that had an impact on our industry. Some of the most notable things that took place this last year was congress finally passing a new farm bill that some thought would never happen. This new piece of legislation, while not perfect but not terrible either, allows farmers and ranchers to have some peace of mind knowing that there is a safety-net program in place for the times of need. In March, the 2012 census was released and showed that more young people were entering the profession of farming and ranching, which was welcome news as the census also showed that the number of American farms was decreasing. In December, China approved Syngenta's Viptera corn that wasn't approved before and caused China to reject several cargos of corn and DDGs that were contaminated with the Viptera trait. Most recently the U.S. and Cuba have agreed to normalize trade relations that will hopefully be a boost for American agriculture exports.
Although there were many good things that took place this last year, there was also a fair share of challenges as well. Probably one of the biggest challenges that corn, soybean, and wheat farmers faced was the decrease in commodity prices. Not long ago many were looking at corn above five dollars and soybeans above thirteen dollars. However, better growing conditions in 2014 caused prices to tumble to lows that haven't been seen for awhile. The EPA also gave the industry many frustrations. The agency first proposed to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard, which frustrated many in the industry, but then later delayed the proposal until 2015. Another frustration the agency gave the industry was the changing of the Clean Water Act (WOTUS) that would allow the agency to regulate waters that aren't typically called "navigable". The change could cause major head aches for farmers and ranchers as they would possibly have to apply for permits to perform everyday farming practices.
Locally, we faced many ups and downs as well. I think the weather was the hot topic in the coffee shops as it seemed like the weather was brutal this past growing season. Starting in the spring, we dealt with cooler temperatures and then dealt with a late frost that caused damage to the corn and soybean crop. We were fortunate and didn't lose any of our crops but others were not so fortunate and ended up replanting. As we moved into summer Mother Nature dealt us some more brutal weather that included strong winds, hail, tornadoes, and heavy rains. In July, we got hit by a brutal hail storm that wiped out several thousand of acres of corn and soybeans. Many older farmers said they had never seen anything like it in their lifetime and I hope I don't see it again in my lifetime either. Thankfully the fields that didn't get hit by severe weather received a fair amount of precipitation, which helped on the yield side come fall. The last couple of years we got use to looking at brown fields in the middle of July but this year we were fortunate to see green fields of corn and soybeans. Many were expecting us to have a wet fall due to some weather models but thankfully we had a dry one with very little rain that allowed us to stay busy in the fields. The only challenge we ran into was finding fields where the corn moisture was dry enough. While we faced some devastating challenges in the growing season, we were blessed with good yields on the fields that didn't get hit by the severe storms.
As we close out 2014, we can learn from the challenges we faced and appreciate all the good that took place. I am sure 2015 will have its fair share of ups and downs and challenge our way of thinking at times as well as test our patience. One thing always remains the same from year to year though, and that is the passion that the American farmer and rancher has for what they do. We take pride in growing and raising food that is safe and nutritious. We also take pride in making sure we leave the land better than it is now for future generations and also take pride in keeping rural America alive and well. Goodbye 2014 and hello 2015.... lets make this another year to remember!