Southern Spotlight: Welcome to the Jungle

James Banahan

James Banahan

That’s my prediction for the year, folks: 2015 is going to be a bit of a jungle.

A lot of things make me say so.  I know that it’s only mid-January, but already strange things are taking shape.  They aren’t things to be scared of (I don’t exactly foresee any jaguars in this jungle), but they are things to be navigated with care (like a fork in the path).  Some are things that just kind of defy emotion: it seems that we should feel one way about them, but we feel differently.  Take how you might feel about seeing a gorilla for example: on one hand, it would be awesome, but on the other hand, absolutely and completely terrifying.

I’ll start there.  The stats are in, and according to national data, 2014 saw the largest grain production numbers since 2009.  We did our jobs well and in challenging conditions.  Congratulations!  This is something to celebrate of course, but I’m guessing that you might not feel like doing so.  It really doesn’t feel like a win, does it?  That’s because it’s that very prolific production that contributes to our grain marketing pains.  These are mucky, murky emotions.  On one hand, woo hoo!  On the other, oh crap.

I suspect that 2015 has many more such emotions to send our way.

Perhaps even more hairy than the grain market: The Farm Bill “safety net.”  If you haven’t heard already then you’ll hear very soon that you’ll have a choice of “safety net” programs in which to enroll.  “Safety nets” sound like good enough things, but one catch here is that whatever program you select, you’re locked into for the next four years.  So choose carefully, right?

The programs have been published, and in fact, it’s not too terribly long before growers will need to decide which net to select.  This, unsurprisingly, has caused a lot of hand-wringing.

I say stop hand-wringing though.  Not long ago, I wrote an article about how great our jobs are.  How lucky we are to do what we do, and I’m sticking to that.  There’re safety nets and choices and worries—none of these changes the important facts.  Our jobs are cool.  We are lucky to do them.  We are great at it (clearly, as evidenced by the grain production numbers), so let’s keep doing what we’re doing.

Maybe you’re reading that thinking, “Great pep talk, dude, but for real, what do I do?”  That’s a legitimate thought to have, so…  First of all, keep doing what you’re doing.  I mean that.  Second, lean on those you trust for information and guidance.  The Central Valley Ag grain team has a program that will help you market your grain with a goal of selling it in the top 1/3 of prices this year.  The agronomy department is busy already sampling soil and running dry fertilizer acres.

So 2015 might look like a jungle, but there are people around to help you through it.  The jungle is sometimes a scary place, I’m sure, but as the great poet Axel Rose reminds us, sometimes there’s also fun and games.