As we bid farewell to 2016, it is hard not to reflect on the unusualness of the year. While a down cycle following exceptional profit years is to be expected in the swine business, 2016 was not without its abnormalities.
Our forefathers’ farmsteads looked much different than today’s modern farms with diverse crops and livestock blanketing the landscape in rural America. Realistically, locally grown crops actually remain local due to the logistics of moving the commodity. Moreover, diversity in commodities grown on a farm spread the risk, typically, until you encounter a year like 2016. Often in my years in the agriculture community, I have heard seasoned farmers say they were thankful for the livestock to pay the bills or vice versa – not a claim that can be made this year.
While livestock producers appreciate the more affordable feed costs, they too share the pain of receiving low prices for their animals. One of the biggest trends for this year is a surge in animal protein production for all three heavyweights – pork, beef and poultry. Personally, I cannot remember a year that one of the species did not have a difficult production year as result of conditions beyond farmers’ control.
In the pork community, it is hard not to notice the modest expansion and the revamping of existing facilities. Whether the inspiration to move forward in the swine business is sparked by new packing plants, bringing the next generation back to the farm or the product of excellent years, it is refreshing to see the pioneer spirit and the hidden optimism.
No matter your personal side of the political scene, it is hard not to ponder on the entire circus of the presidential election from the steps leading to the final vote, the unprecedented strategy and the reaction of the results. And I will leave it right there.
Still, years paved in unpredictability can lead to brighter futures. It is all about the mindset. You can let series of adverse events knock you down, but it is important not to make camp there. For me, on those days that adulting is hard I just tell myself to pull it together, put your boots on and give life a big ’ol smirk.
Building on all the fun 2016 bestowed on us, the year schooled us on many things:
- Sharpen the pencil: Low prices for crops and livestock keep farmers and ranchers humble, forcing you to rein in on the spending, prioritize and focus on precision management. Investing on inputs that provide a solid return on investment is not about spending less on items such as vaccination programs but making every dollar count.
- Seek the advice of experts: An outside perspective on your farming business may surface overlooked problems and segments that drain the profits.
- Reconsider: Time to reexamine the farming operation’s target consumer. Every corner of the swine business is about putting pork on the global consumer plate. Who are you feeding? Serve that audience, not the noisy few that probably do not eat meat.
- Returning to meat: With lower prices at the meat counter, consumers are expanding their animal protein consumption, and that is great news. Price, taste and safety are still the top shopping values of today’s consumers.
- Never underestimate the power of rural America: Agriculture built this nation, and maybe it is time to respect, cherish and rebuild on this again.
- Dare to do something different: Flipping the calendar pages also means adventuring forward bravely. Do not let the way it always has been done constrain you from reaching new heights.
From the staff at National Hog Farmer our wish for you in 2017: May your barns be full, your fields be lush, your blessings be many and your troubles be few.